Lexus alternator fix

Well, I’m not sure why I grumbled so much about the Lexus alternator job. Fitting the new one progressed remarkably easily! The full details can be seen in this video.

I still have a broken fan cowling to replace, but I doubt I’ll miss it at this time of year. The good news is that the Lexus has so far covered 260 miles without trouble, though I suspect there’s an exhaust leak on one bank. It’s a bit chuffy at times.

The Lexus rests in Tiverton. No, I couldn’t be bothered to walk outside for a pic.

Still a marvellous way to travel though. It really is very good at eating up the Wales. After whisking us back home tomorrow, I’ll be swapping it for a 7.5 ton truck on Tuesday, in order to collect the Invacars. I suspect that drive won’t be quite so joyous…

 

Fleet update – Nov 2017

Right. Winter is pretty much upon us, so let’s wrap up fleet happenings.

I’ll start with the Honda, as it has been by far the busiest car on the fleet this month, ferrying me up to Hinckley for a photoshoot, then to Birmingham for the NEC Classic Motor Show. It came back from Birmingham carrying a washing machine.

The trip wasn’t without fault, as the Honda managed to pick up a screw in the nearside rear tyre. I was forced to take desperate action. I went to ATS.

ATS offered quick and pleasant service to be fair.

However, it was otherwise problem free bar the fact that it’s still drinking oil. The cam cover gasket is leaking, but I’ve managed to break a captive thread, so I can’t actually remove it at the moment. For now, it’s rust-proofing the front subframe my spreading oil all over it. There are worse problems to have.

The Nippa has been working fairly hard too, having clocked up 3000 miles since MOT in March – which is quite a lot by Nippa standards. It has a windscreen wiper bush problem – as in the bush is turning in its housing. It’s not meant to do that. The spindle is meant to turn in the bush. However, it still works, so that’s a job for another day. It is due a service, but that just means draining the oil and putting another 2.5 litres of 5w30 in. No problem. He says. I did get given a lovely brochure for it at the weekend, which was nice!

A rather lovely gift.

The 2CV hasn’t turned a wheel in November. She’s hibernating, and I promised I’d finally sort out the paintwork I’ve been meaning to do since January. Elly has covered 5000 miles since then, including trips to Ireland and France, and once I started driving her again, I rather lost interest in paintwork. I must sort this out.

The Lexus has mostly been broken, as it repaid me for the recent cambelt job by breaking its alternator. I had a lovely 600-mile trip to see the Invacars, but then the Lexus decided it needed a rest. I swallowed a brave pill and, as the Lexus won’t go on my ramps, had to improvise.

Makeshift ramps – an old Dyane wheel!

A wooden ramp to get the car sitting on a Dyane wheel. Yeah, ok. Not ideal, but it’s not going anywhere. Yes, it is in park and yes, the parking brake is applied too. It’s just lifted the Lexus enough for me to get at the alternator. You can’t get at it from above really. Well, you can undo one of the fixing bolts from above, but then you’ve got to crawl underneath, while swearing, as you try to disconnect the wiring and free the thing from an impossible place.

Once out, the failure point was pretty obvious to be fair.

Broken brushes dot com.

One of the brushes seems to be melted into place. It wasn’t for shifting and the slip rings on the shaft of the alternator (just visible) are toast too. I need the car back on the road for a trip to Devon, so a recon alternator was ordered online with next day delivery. It arrived today. I must fit it tomorrow.

All this has served as a bit of a distraction from Invacar collection, but don’t worry. Next week, I will finally hire a truck and go and collect them! I’m pretty excited. Christmas may not be necessary this year. Nothing will top this.

The Invacar Story – I bought two!

Those who follow me on social media will already be aware that I have purchased a pair of Invacars. This is a hugely exciting development! This pair are actually part of a stash, that was advertised online. A friend first made me aware of them, and he was even good enough to visit the site and pick a couple out for me. He was going to have them himself, but it turns out he’s more sensible than I am, so he had second thoughts. Anyway, I’m very grateful for his efforts. Thanks Marc!

Via Marc and the owner, we managed to sort the deal out, and on Thursday, I actually got to visit the field of dreams. It was absolutely remarkable!

Lexus and Invacars

Comparisons. Lexus meets Invacars. The fog just adds to the unreal feel!

That’s about ten Invacars, which were part of the stash, but have now happily been claimed by another enthusiast. One who already holds a large parts stash for these cars. I suspect I’ll be doing business with this gentleman once I work out what I actually need.

Here’s my pair.

Invacar pair

My two Invacars! Lucky ol’ me.

The one on the left is a particularly early example of an Invacar Model 70. According to the club contact I’ve spoken to, the second one is an AC Model 70. AC designed these vehicles, to a standard specification. Invacar, which had been building invalid carriages since 1948, also built the Model 70, to this standard specification – so they look near-enough identical. AC has previous when it comes to rear-engined microcars – the Petite is an incredibly noisy little three-wheeler that it was producing alongside the fearsome Ace. AC was also building invalid carriages, initially to a similar design to Invacar, to meet government requirements, but then branching out slightly with the Model 57. Other manufacturers had their own designs, including the unfortunately named Tippen & Sons – not a great name for a three-wheeler manufacturer…

The first Model 70s were sold in 1971, and were a fair bit wider than previous designs, and therefore more stable. Sadly, not stable enough for some people, including Graham Hill. He was loaned one after a racing collision, and was so horrified he campaigned against them. That pressure built up until the government called a stop to production in 1977. Disabled people would now need to get normal cars converted. Shame.

However, the government allowed happy Model 70 owners to keep leasing their vehicles right up until 2003. Then, all of a sudden, the government decided the Model 70s should all be scrapped. Within a week, all of the Model 70s were rounded up, and should have been scrapped. In the case of this stash, the executioner’s axe never fell. They were parked up, to await scrapping, but it never happened. They have survived! The seller of the vehicles agreed to temporarily store these vehicles in 2003, but 14 years later, with the chap who brought them to the field deceased, he just wants the space back. He had sorrowful tales to tell of what the poor chap had been through collecting these cars, from owners (or rather, leasees) who were devastated to lose their lifelines. All very sad.

However, as these cars haven’t actually been scrapped, I’ve had a rare chance to save a pair.

Here’s what the ‘good’ one looks like on the inside.

Invacar interior

Inside my ‘good’ Invacar.

Not sure why there’s a bag of rock salt in there. Ballast perhaps? But, as you can see, all the controls are set for hand use. There’s a motorcycle-style throttle, while pushing the entire handlebar down operates the brakes. The doors slide forward, to make it easy to get in from a wheelchair. There’s room for the chair to be stashed next to the seat.

This one has covered over 28,000 miles, which is quite high for an Invacar. Not many got used for long journeys, though the 493cc Steyr-Puch aircooled flat twin is good for about 20bhp. Given the light weight of these vehicles (under 400kg), that’s enough to reach at least the motorway speed limit! Drive is transmitted via a single DAF-esque variable pulley set-up, to Fiat 500/126 driveshafts. Nice and simple, and it means they can go as fast backwards as forwards. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m not really sure how the standard specification came to include an obscure Austrian engine, though the company did sell its Haflinger off-roader in the UK, and that had a very similar engine (slightly larger I think).

Anyway, collection is being arranged, so I can get the vehicles to Wales and start the rebuild. I cannot wait to get started, then go for a drive! That should be possible too. Through hard work by the Invalid Carriage Register, it is possible to change the vehicle class to trike, so they can be made road legal, 14 years after they were unceremoniously banned.

Ian in invacar

Happy! Can’t wait to start the rebuild and go for a drive.

For more info and another look at these vehicles, check out my latest video!

Don’t forget, you can support these ridiculous projects via this page: https://hubnut.org/donate-2/

Many thanks!

Ian

 

 

Why I’ll never own another diesel

Diesel really is the bad guy right now. In attempts to curb the soot that has forever been a diesel trademark, manufacturers have only succeeded in creating ever smaller particles, that now do even more damage to humans. Nice work!

But that’s not why I will never own another.

I’ve owned plenty of diesels over the years – a Citroen BX non-turbo diesel was my first, back in 1998, and there have been many other BXs too – turbo and otherwise. A Peugeot 306 DTurbo transported me over 40,000 miles and more recently, an XM turbo diesel achieved another 18,000 in my hands. It was followed by a Rover 600 diesel, with Rover’s excellent L-Series engine, and a ZX non-turbo diesel.

One of many, many diesels I have owned.

Then, earlier this year, there was the Omega six-cylinder turbo diesel, with BMW power no less. But, I reckon that might well have been my last.

You see, the XM in its latter stages, the ZX and definitely the Omega reminded me that diesel is horrible! The fuel itself stinks, it’s lethal if it leaks out over the road, for it is slipperier than a particularly slippery politician – wearing slippers. It doesn’t smell particularly pleasant when it is being burnt either, diesels sound HORRIBLE on a cold morning and I’m yet to drive a diesel which has a nice, linear power delivery. Well, ok, the non-turbo diesels have a very linear power delivery – there’s barely any, no matter where you are in the rev range. They are at least consistent.

Sure, there’s stuff I like about diesels. I like torque, so the way diesel deliver low down grunt is nice. But the Honda is (surprisingly) not bad at low-down grunt. The Lexus is, obviously, exceptional.

Petrol is just better, in so many ways. Petrol engines are generally quite zingy and feel light and energetic. The engines are smooth, even when cold. Petrol engines tend to be a lot more flexible too. They don’t run out of puff at 4000rpm. They sound nicer, even boring four-pot ones. Petrol doesn’t tend to be really skiddy either, even if it’ll catch fire more readily than diesel.

Petrol power! Sod outright economy.

So, I’m going to ignore the running costs. After all, what sort of a car enthusiast watches the pennies to the point that they would rather listen to a tractor than a symphony?

As for cost [EDIT – sums now corrected!], quick sums using today’s average fuel prices reveal that the XM would have cost me £1144 to cover 10,000 miles (fuel only). The Honda would cost £1600, so only an extra £456 to cover a year’s worth of miles. Mind you, I reckon the Honda has cost less to run, but that requires adding up a lot of bills, and I’m not sure I really fancy that.

Oh, the Lexus comes in at £1945 for 10,000 miles by way of comparison, so that’s your first classic ticket. Chances are, I’m probably not going to cover 10,000 miles in a year in it though. The Honda remains the main beast of burden. The Lexus is for special treats, and to spread the load a bit.

My point is that yes, diesel could save me money, but at what cost? They certainly don’t stack up well for the environment, due to an obsession about carbon emissions that has seen nitrous oxide emissions rise (though petrols produce these too). Mostly though, I just prefer the peace and quiet of petrol. I think that’s why the Honda has stayed around for quite so long. After many years of diesel power, it’s been a true joy.

 

What the future holds

It occurred to me today that I really am a 20th century boy when it comes to transport. Do you know how many 21st century cars I’ve owned? It isn’t many, and one of them is the Perodua.

The answer is two. The second was a Rover 75 Connoisseur CDT Tourer I owned several years ago. I didn’t really get on with it, which surprised me.

Rover estate diesel

I’d always liked the Rover 75. Until I owned one.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely place to sit at night.

Rover 75 interior is GORGEOUS

But, ultimately, the car itself left me cold. Not through any major failing, just because it felt too new. The electrics were flaky, the clutch hydraulics nightmarish and the engine a horrible, clattering diesel. It didn’t stay on the fleet long, even though (unlike the Lexus) it had heated seats that actually worked!

The Nippa represents my other foray into ‘modern’ cars, but let’s face it, it’s only a 21st Century car by fluke. It’s a cast-off Daihatsu from much earlier – the early 1990s in fact.

Not really 21st century…

The Nippa even clings on to a 20th century number plate style, whereas the Rover had the ‘new’ style, introduced in 2001. The Nippa is the last of the ‘old plate’ line. I like older plates.

Generally, I love 1980s and 1990s cars. To me, they represent peak cars. They got as good as they were ever going to be, and everything since then has been more airbags, more gadgets, more weight and precious little improvement. Yes, a Nissan Qashqai is very nice, but does it really do more than a 20-year old Nissan? No, I’m not sure it does.

But, there is a problem. Much as I love using 1980s and 1990s stuff as daily transport, the good times cannot last forever. Already, a lot of Japanese 1980s cars are facing a parts crisis, while corrosion is forever ready to rip away at survivors. It’s very hard to preserve a car AND use it as daily transport.

So, what am I going to do? I don’t like 21st century cars. Well, ok. I don’t like 21st century cars with internal combustion engines. Frankly, I don’t think the engines are good enough. Complexity has gone through the roof, but where is the improvement for the end user? It isn’t there.

Electric on the other hand, now there’s a modern car technology which interests me. For a start, the power delivery is exceptional. I won’t go on about it, because I’ve spent plenty of time singing the praises of electric power before. Suffice it to say though, I’m definitely getting closer to the time in my life when I own an electric car. Sure, it might be a bit of a leap to jump from a petrol-engined car over 20 years old into such recent technology, but that’s because to me, the cars between the two are simply not worth having.

Nissan Leaf

How long must I wait to own a LEAF? Four years since I tried this one!

It’s going to be an interesting jump, when it happens. Mind you, if I didn’t spend so much money on rubbish cars, I could probably have made the leap already. Oh well. I’m not a fan of depreciation, so I guess I’ll wait a bit longer, until electric cars are more affordable. Hopefully, there won’t be long to wait. The problem is, as the values drop, electric cars are suddenly viable for an awful lot more people, which conversely can stop the values dropping. Nissan LEAF values have definitely reached something of a plateau now. These cars were £25,000-35,000 brand new, but values have firmed up in the £5000-6000 range. Problematic! I just don’t spend that much on cars. Well, not buying just one anyway.

So, we’ll see what happens. Until then, I’m going to make the most of having a V8 soundtrack in my life because one day, it might not be possible.

Offloading via the keys

One of my favourite things to do is write. I have always found it easy to do, though I’d never claim that writing about old cars for a living is necessarily easy. There is research to be done (I get paid to read books!), and an audience to be considered. Plus, you rarely have the freedom to talk about what you want to. For me, that’s dreadful cars. I love dreadful cars! It’s why my video channel is chock full of them.

I just need to vent my mind man!

But, as much as I’ve enjoyed doing the videos (over 160 of them now!), nothing beats the joy I get from chucking on some bass-heavy music and just emptying my brain via my fingers. This is my caffeine. This is my hit. I haven’t planned this post at all you see, I just started writing it at 1956hrs on the 26th October, and am letting my brain run free. It’s an exhilarating feeling.

You see, I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that to be an automotive writer, you must love cars. Well, ok. That bit is true as it happens. It’s be a crap job if I actually liked insects, or clean air. But, you must also dearly love writing. It’s just as big a part of the job spec.

My love of writing began very much when I was at school. The best thing that could happen would be to sit in an English class, get given a spec and told to go write a story. I just would. I wouldn’t think about it, or plan it, I’d just start writing and let the creative juices flow. I’d be lost in my own little world as I constructed storylines. My difficulties came when it was time for editing and proofing. I couldn’t be bothered with that, so I’d just re-write the story completely, changing almost every aspect of it. Thankfully, I’ve got better at that since, or I’d be a pretty poor editor, but back then, tweaking would inevitably evolve into Version 2.0.

I can remember one specific story, which revolved around Macbeth. We had to write a modern day version. My story was based on a girl I knew (surprise) and her horrible boyfriend – the perfect baddie! It opened with a bus ride, because I’m too predictable, an attempted sexual assault (not too bad, because I was squeamish), a girl in a coma and a hero, who caught sight of the incident and is then facing a battle to avoid being killed by our bad guy. Yeah, ok. Shakespeare may have employed a bit more skill and finesse, but then he didn’t have a car chase involving a Land Rover Series III V8 on coil springs and a Toyota Hiace van did he? Bet you didn’t see that coming (no need to guess which one our hero drove).

It had sod all to do with Macbeth really, apart from that attempting to silence witnesses. There wasn’t much killing, because I liked my characters too much to kill them. Even the girl in the coma recovered. I can’t recall what happened to Mr Evil.

I’ve got carried away. However, I’m not editing this post. Either you get all of this, or I’ll have to start again, and I’ve already written over 500 words, and I can’t be bothered.

My point is, writing is simply one of the best things. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like making music too (ukulele and bass guitar, with occasional piano and even more occasional reed organ), which is wonderful when you’re part of a group. It’s collaborative in a way writing just isn’t.

But, fingers flying is what I love most. It feels exactly the same to me as cruising along in a car at motorway speeds. Thoughts jostle in the mind while you focus on the task is hand. As I do this, I have no idea which words will appear next. Usually ones necessary to complete a sentence I guess, or it’d look pretty random.

This is the very opposite of writer’s block.

I wrote that, then immediately had writer’s block. What are the chances? It clearly alarms the brain and causes a mild panic. Don’t even think about it.

I often think I’d like to get back into story writing. I have occasional bursts, like the time I wrote up a particularly vivid dream I had a few years back. If I can find that one, maybe I’ll post it up for your amusement.

The biggest challenge with writing an actual story is that spark of inspiration. At school, we’d be told what was expected of us and I’d run away with it.  Actually, one time I REALLY ran away with it, when we were given a list of typical phrases you’d expect to hear in a TV Holiday programme. I managed to incorporate all of the lines in a typical British spy thriller. I had fun with that one. I wish I still had a record of it.

But, whenever, as an adult, I’ve tried to engage the brain and write a story, it has ended up going nowhere. Writing a novel is SERIOUSLY hard work. I think the people who do it must actually have a bit of a think before they get started. I’m not so good at that bit. Maybe I need a collaborative partner, someone to say ‘here’s an idea…’ and then off I’ll go.

I’ve tried creative writing groups, and once made the mistake of paying money for an online writing course (a COMPLETE farce), but creative writing groups rarely cover the sort of topics I want to cover, which I’m afraid are very formulaic. But, I’d love to write a romantic drama, or spy thriller which was actually chock full of actually-correct vehicle descriptions, or write a chase scene which is actually vaguely realistic about what a car can or can’t do. Maybe one day I will.

For now, I’m just pressing buttons on a keyboard and soothing my own soul. Thank you for reading and welcome to the inside of my head. The next post will be back to cars. Don’t worry.

Why the Lexus is amazing

Now, don’t get carried away. I’ve thought cars were amazing before, but sometimes, a car arrives on the fleet at just the right moment, and I get a buzz that I certainly do not always get.

The XM created that buzz, until the heavy clutch, horrible gearchange and the fact it had four bloody pedals got too much for me (the Lexus has the same stupid foot-operated parking brake, but at least has the decency to dispense with a clutch pedal). My Land Rover Discovery also created that buzz, though it rather spoilt it by frequently going wrong. The Rover P6B definitely had a strong buzz about it, tempered only by the battering my wallet took to keep it on the road, and my inability to put fuel into it (odd filler neck, once had a petrol pump time out on me).

But the Lexus is, so far, ticking boxes aplenty. There’s the whole wiper thing, which I may have mentioned once or twice, but it’s not just the beautiful engineering of the driver’s dual wiper arm, there’s also the way the wipers sweep a vast amount of windscreen, leaving few blind spots (the Honda is good at this too). There’s a mist function on the wiper stalk too and, joy of joys, a variable intermittent setting. Bloomin’ handy when you live in Wales.

Excellent wipers. Mostly hidden.

Plus, and this is my final wiper point, I promise, I love the way they park. The wipers park out of sight, resting in a slightly-raised position when in use. This is nothing new, such wiper behaviour can be seen on everything from a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud through the Rover P4 and 5 right up to the Austin Montego and Alfa Romeo 164 (when that bit actually works, it often didn’t on mine). But, what sets the Lexus apart from all these is that if the wipers are resting, and you turn the wipers off, they just quietly park away. On every other one of the cars mentioned, the wipers will do a final sweep (a part sweep on some) before thunking away to the park position. If you didn’t actually WANT a final sweep, this is annoying.

Moving swiftly on, the interior of the Lexus is a bloody lovely place to be too. It’s surprisingly modern, with lots of curving plastic that feels nice to the touch. It’s amazingly uncluttered too. There aren’t actually that many toys to play with. Look at the interior of a Toyota Century, in production by the same company at the same time as the Lexus, and you can marvel at how different hings are. The Toyota has buttons on top of buttons.

The seats are also beautifully comfortable, in a way the seats in the Vauxhall Omega just aren’t. The leather is soft and caressing, and inviting. Even if the seat heaters do not work. (in the front at least, not tested the rears yet).

Sure, it’s not all good. The ride isn’t perfect, though it is pretty good. The handling is pretty woeful though. Like a CX, it pays to be incredibly smooth with your steering inputs. Make hasty corrections and it all feels as wobbly as a tango on a bouncy castle.

It’s very peaceful, which is always nice on a long journey, though a leaky sunroof seal means there is noise that shouldn’t be there. It’s actually quieter to open the sunroof, though only in the tilt position. Have the ‘moon roof’ right back and it’s louder than the Bluebird was – though the Bluebird was utterly remarkable in that fact. You could drive along at motorway speeds with sunroof and windows open and it didn’t hurt.

It is effortless. Not quite electric motor effortless, but good nonetheless. At 1000rpm, the 4-litre, quad-cam V8 is producing over 150Nm of torque! That’s 110lb.ft, or about 20 more than a Bluebird 1.6 produces as maximum. It isn’t power I’ve been craving, but torque! Incidentally, a 2CV has 29lb.ft of torque, which really is not very much. The maximum the Lexus produces is 365Nm/269lb.ft at 4600rpm.

It’s allied to one of the smoothest automatic transmissions I’ve ever encountered. It isn’t often I drive even an automatic where I don’t know what gear it is in, but this is one of them. The rev counter is necessary for some indication. Often, it’s the only clue that a change has occurred. Even when you hoof it, or double-kickdown, it doesn’t take long to sort itself out.

Oh, some for fun facts – the owners’ manual recommends not exceeding 50mph in first, or 83mph in second. The lever has a nice action too, pulling down through PRN to D, then across to 3, and down to 2 and L (or 1) if needs be. I like that. Approaching roundabouts or sharp bends, I still like to knock it down to third, which it does beautifully smoothly. It gives the brakes a slightly easier time. There’s a lot of weight to haul down! The discs are also warped judging by the judder I get at times.

On top of everything, I’ve always loved the looks of the LS400, even if I prefer the first-generation for its slightly edgier front end. Those smooth looks aren’t just to look good either – this car has a drag coefficient of just 0.29cd – that’s slightly better than a Honda NSX or the remarkable 1983 Audi 100. A Jaguar X300 is 0.37 by comparison, which is a lot. This, more than anything, helps explain why the Lexus can nudge 30mpg, which, even though I’ve really tried, seems impossible with the Jag (27mpg the best I managed, by driving like a saint).

So, it’s a complete package then, that allows me to overlook some of the problems it has – like not fitting in parking spaces. Whether it can maintain this high level of joy remains to be seen, but I’m about to fork out for a timing belt change, so I really do hope it stays in the good books for some time to come!