2018: YouTube takes off

You’ve probably noticed it’s gone a bit quiet on here. That was entirely planned. I think 31st December 2017 really marked the end of me using this Blog as a platform.

That’s simply because the HubNut YouTube Channel has taken off so well. It has several times the audience on the blog, and frankly,  I’m struggling to keep up with the comments at times.

The ride of the video channel is very rewarding, and represents about four years of my hobby time. From my first drive in an electric car, to the utter failings of an Invacar, there’s a right mix of content, which is just based on whatever I have to hand at the time. There’s no plan, no script and precious little professionalism. It’s just a bloke in a shed.

Latest video, number 183.

The latest video has caused some upset, because of my ineptitude, but I’m not professing to be an expert here, showing people how it’s done. No, I’m recording the exploits of a complete amateur, like many drawn to older cars, just having a go.  People like the realism, which stands as a fine alternative to proper TV.

You see, the problem with TV is that it’s made by TV people, who always have to consider the wider audience. Specialising to the degree of my videos is just not possible. On the internet, people will either watch it or they won’t, so there’s much more freedom. I don’t depend on the income (useful as it has become lately), so it’s not the end of the world if a video doesn’t do well.

As of today, HubNut boasts over 1.6 million views, over 8300 subscribers and an increasingly engaged audience that provides instant feedback. To someone who has worked in magazine publishing for over ten years, this is a new and exciting development!

So, the blog will be retiring, sitting here merely as a placeholder to direct folk towards YouTube. I apologise if that comes as a disappointment, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep on top of absolutely everything. My creative energies are already split between two magazines and the videos.

Thanks to all those who’ve supported HubNut in the long term, going back to the ClassicHub days. It’s that feeling of having an audience, no matter how small, that has kept me going. All the best! Ian.

Invacar latest – running!

Oh dear. I’m not doing very well at keeping the blog going. There’s a simple reason for that. Life is getting in the way. As well as a hectic schedule of magazines to edit, the HubNut video channel on YouTube has also been exceedingly busy. I’ve published over 70 videos this year, and it has to be said, feedback is much more plentiful on my channel than it ever has been on my blog.

Invacar blue three wheeler

2017 has really been a busy year, with some remarkable surprises!

So, I’m going to be toning things down a bit on here. I’m sorry if that’s bad news, but YouTube is where it all seems to be happening at the moment. In fact, I’m struggling to keep up with the comments! I like being able to reply to as many comments as possible. There may come a time when that’s no longer possible either.

So, here’s a video recap of December. Firstly, I did get the Invacar running. It now starts absolutely beautifully, and I’ve fitted a new exhaust today. Bodges to the old one didn’t hold!

 

Amusingly, having got my 493cc Invacar to fire up, I then couldn’t get the Lexus started after replacing the auxiliary belt tensioner and idler. New spark plugs sorted that out, but I’m still not entirely sure why.

 

Which allowed me to put together this short Vlog update on the fleet.

Thanks to everyone for their support on Hubnut.org over the years, and in its previous ClassicHub form. As ever, I’m active on Facebook as Ian Seabrook and Twitter as @Dollywobbler, but like I say, the YouTube channel is becoming the best place to stay in touch and see what I’m up to. Visit http://www.youtube.com/HubNut

Lastly, I hope you’ve all had a marvellous Christmas time. Here’s to new and exciting projects and experiences in 2018!

The Invacar pair have landed!

I’m pleased to report that the Invacars are home! I scooped them up with a truck last week, as social media followers will already have seen, and they’re now adding some much needed glamour to my garden. Here’s the spares car, basking in the sun.

Invacar rear parts car

The spares project

There could well be some useful bits to be had from this one – the rear window for a start. Don’t fret though. What I don’t use will be sold on. Apparently, even the damaged body could be in demand from those who know how to repair glassfibre.

TWC, the one I’ll be restoring, sits outside my office window. Perhaps this is why I took time out from my busy day job to give her a wash.

Invacar blue three wheeler

A half-clean Invacar. TWC gets a wash.

AC Model 70s had the blue impregnated in the glassfibre apparently, but TWC is an Invacar Model 70, built in Thundersley, Essex – spot the winged badge on the nose, whereas ACs had a roundel. As you can see, my pressure washer did a good job of removing the muck,  but Invacars were painted, and some paint did come off as well. Mind you, I think that just highlights how poor the paint already was in places – it’s very bad on that front cover you can see, even before I started.

With the muck blasted off, I even got some cutting polish out to reduce that big mark on the front wing. The result?

Invacar

TWC all scrubbed up!

That’s better! She’s almost presentable now. I’m thrilled with the makeover. The next day, I set about clearing the broken glass out of TWC, as at some point in the past 14 years, something unfortunate had happened to the rear window. Just as I’d finished doing that, the postman arrived with a special package.

I’ve got the key!

Yes, an FS880 key. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but nearly all Invacars have the same ruddy key, which is also shared with machinery as diverse as dump trucks and cash machines on some buses apparently.  Quite how one particular key became so popular, I don’t know, but it fitted the ignition switch and works in both doors – albeit one of the locks has semi-seized and I can’t quite unlock it.

I could unlock the rear engine cover though! What would I find beneath it?

Invacar Model 70 engine bay Steyr-Puch aircooled flat twin

Oooh, an actual engine! May be a little overgrown…

Well, there is an engine at least! I cleared out some of the dead plantlife and one or two cobwebs. I couldn’t turn the crankshaft pulley by hand, so I then whipped out both plugs and squirted in a bit of engine oil. With that done, I then applied a breaker bar gently to the fan, which then applied a turning force to the crank via those twin belts. That replicates the work of the Dynastart, which is housed within that fan. This acts as a starter motor and a generator in one. Clever, a like a lot of two-stroke microcars. I think it’s the first time I’d encountered such a device on a four-stroke engine.

But, I can’t get the engine to complete a full turn. It’s likely that the engine has decoked itself, with large chunks of combustion material in the cylinder head now preventing the piston from achieving full travel. I’ve had this on the 2CV before, when I dragged its spare engine out of my aunt’s damp shed after a decade, and fitted it to the 2CV. That time, I laughed in the face of danger and just started the engine. It’s been fine ever since, but it could also have gone spectacularly wrong, damaging pistons, cylinder head and possibly even crankshaft. So, the sensible thing to do is get the engine out, where it’ll be a lot easier to remove the heads and clean things up.

Probably no bad thing, as the electrics seem entirely dead, even when I connect up a jump pack, so it’s not like I was on the cusp of having it running anyway. The best I’d seen was a very mild flicker from the fuel gauge.

But, working on the car is not really very easy where it is, which was only meant to be a temporary resting place. My neighbours will be happy once I can get TWC rolling, and stash her away in the garage. Elly the 2CV will be happy if she still fits in the garage too…

New tyres and inner tubes are on their way, so hopefully I can achieve some movement before the weekend. It depends how easy it is to free off the brakes. I know the front wheel is turning, but the rears? Not so much…

As for how I got them home, all is revealed in the latest video.

 

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…

 

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.