At last, after 3 months the Bebe has arrived and only 8 days before it’s debut on the VCCA Annual Rally at Colac. But before it could be driven it needed to pass a safety check, so for the last week I have been replacing the wheel bearings with sealed units, found the LH rear hub was held on with a stripped nut probably UNC, luckily all the threads on the car seem to be standard metric so the right nut (LH Thread) was only 60Km away, the steering had lots of play but could be adjusted out. The brakes are self-energising or should I say very self-energising (they grab) I’m not sure if they originally had linings or maybe they assumed the differential oil would get all over them so this still needs attention but you don’t fail a safety for your brakes being too effective.
First drive was on Wednesday and it was a case of where are the gears, it turns out first is to the left and back, second not where you would think but right and back with top right and forward. The other idiosyncrasy is the gear shift is coupled to the selectors via a couple of leaf springs so the method is push it into gear and wait for the dogs in the box to synchronise or in the case of first it seems to like reverse being selected beforehand. The long and short of it is that the gear change is very smooth although the first time I drove it in Colac I somehow stranded myself in neutral and had the push the car to my destination which at 330Kg was not too hard.
The other thing that was troubling on the first drive was a decided lack of go, so as the safety stuff was by then sorted I connected a timing light up and aimed it at the flywheel which was a complete waste of time as there are no marks that I could see. So back to basics, removed a valve cap on number one and stuck a screw driver in where I thought the piston should be and eventually found Top Dead Centre and sure enough there was some centre punch marks on the flywheel at that point so they were enhanced with a white Texta. Tried the timing light again this time showed it running at 10° retarded. The Bebe has fixed timing so it has to be a bit of a compromise and the consensus from the veteran brains trust (A McDougall & Co.) was it should be between 20°and 25° (maybe as far as 30°) advanced so the car was at best 30° wrong.
Sometime in the early 50’s the car was restored and I think at that time a Fairbank Morse impulse magneto was fitted, this thing really kicks and makes starting a breeze but I mistakenly thought I would have to remove it to re-time the ignition, luckily that was not the case as it is mounted in such a way that will require the engine to be removed before the magneto could be liberated. Mr Google again saved the day with a Fairbanks Morse manual and very simple instructions on how do the adjustment although of course I made it worse before I made it better. Now set to 22° it goes up moderate hills in top gear…very satisfying.
So to the rally, after my previously noted first failed foray in Colac I avoided the traffic lights and managed to get to the start with mostly left turns and no stops. We were flagged off at about 10:00 and I discovered the gear change was great if you didn’t over think it. The rest of the morning was uneventful, we (as in Bebe and me) even passed a few cars, however after morning tea the big hill of the day awaited and we were balked by an even slower vehicle and as we discovered later, one of the plug leads had fallen off so only 641.25cc were with us and 213.75cc against, no matter the hill was crested. At the earliest convenience we stopped, the errant plug lead was discovered, Bebe was given a drink with the now 4-cylinder engine running and it was at this point that it was noted that radiator water should not be still.
All in all a good first effort, I have no idea why the water pump failed, maybe a lump of crud from the radiator lodged in the impeller, will find out tomorrow.
More photos of the Rally on the Veteran Car Club’s website www.veterancarclub.org.au