Project 2CV: Paint and progress

I’ve finally had an entire weekend at home, with no magazine deadlines to worry about, no distractions (other than a Nissan Qashqai I’m currently testing – more on that soon) and plenty of work on the 2CV.

Paint has taken up a large part of the past three days. It’s a slow business, even when you do a poor rush job like I am. Friday was spent prepping the front wings, which mostly meant treating any rust, sanding the surface and getting one wing into primer.

First wing in zinc-rich primer.

First wing in zinc-rich primer.

I’ve used a zinc-rich primer, in the hope of keeping that nasty rust stuff at bay. I started with Halfords’ own brand stuff, but it’s very thin, has poor coverage and two tins were gone in no time. I then switched to Plasti-kote’s zinc-rich primer, and this was far better, with a much meatier spray straight from the rattle can.

I also put a few coats of primer on the headlamp bar. I have two spare bars, and one was declared not fit for reuse. A kindly friend is sending me a pair of headlamp bowls, as the originals were, unsurprisingly, rotten. Anyway, here’s the bar, complete with a totally inadequate layer of cardboard.

Spray away, over bar and driveway...

Spray away, over bar and driveway…

You may also note in that picture a small, rectangular piece. That’s the surround for the speedometer. I first primered that in white in about 2006, and never got around to putting a top coat on it. Maybe this time! Once I get some. In my confusion on Friday (I’m not very good at shops) I failed to buy any top coat…

I got some for the front wings though, and today has been about getting that onto the wings. It’s a satin red (I really like satin paint on cars) and slightly pinker than the factory Sunrise Red. It’s Plasti-kote again, and it also went on nicely – if not quite as nicely as the primer.

Using Plasti-kote satin red on the front wings.

Using Plasti-kote satin red on the front wings.

In total, I used about two and a half cans on the front wings. Not all surfaces needed painting I should point out. That was two coats per wing. I was forced to use gentle heat from a hairdryer to encourage drying, as it was hovering around zero last night, and lower than ten degrees centigrade today. Not ideal. Including waiting time, it’s taken three days to get the wings in paint. Bodywork is a slow business, even when you think you’re doing it quickly!

While waiting for the paint to dry, I set about a number of jobs on the 2CV itself. To help me wire up the fusebox, I need the fog light fitted and wired in. It’s one of few things that uses a fuse (the 2CV has an entire four fuses) and hopefully I can now crack on with getting the wiring completed.

I also refitted the rear number plate and adventure bar. I needed some visual progress! That inspired me to then refit one of the rear wings. I’ve been putting that job off as I was struggling to decide which wings to use. I’ve decided to use the glassfibre wings that were on the car pre-rebuild. They’re scruffy, but won’t rust! In time, I’ll paint them to match the fronts, but that’s not a ‘get it legal’ priority. Gosh, the visual difference is amazing though!

Coming together! Hoorah!

Coming together! Hoorah!

It’s amazing what bolting on a few parts can do. From this angle, she looks almost ready to drive away! Mind you, there’s clearly quite a lot still missing. The rearmost side windows are still in Bradford, so I’ll be collecting them (along with a few other things) next week. I’ll also be visiting ECAS 2CV Parts again, as there’s yet more bits to buy – including an exhaust system.

The body is getting much closer to completion though. Obviously, the doors still need fitting, and they still need building up too (no glass currently). The seats need fitting, and the flimsy excuse of a dashboard. That’s a few bolts and screws though. It won’t take long. Nor will the seatbelts, especially as I’ll probably only fit the fronts to get her legal. There are some minor issues to overcome with the rear – the clips that hold the seat in place are mullered (or rather, the rusty remnants of the old bolts are causing them to no longer function).

The engine is still a notable absentee, but plans have changed there. I just don’t have time to wait for it to be rebuilt so, seeing as it was running fine, it can wait. I’m collecting it on Wednesday. It needs a new clutch fitting to it (one of the spring finger bits has snapped off), but hopefully I can have it running by Christmas.

At the moment, the deadline of 8th Jan feels very possible. Let’s see how the next week goes…

New ZX: More issues

Having successfully managed to get home in my new, £4 Citroen ZX, the problems didn’t end there. I headed out to get supplies on Sunday morning, and the tensioner noise I’d noticed when we first saw the car seemed even louder. At least, I hoped it was the tensioner. Preferably the auxiliary belt one.

I decided it made sense to investigate. After all, this is not a good noise.

First step was to remove the alternator belt. That would confirm whether I was dealing with a minor issue or a major one. In other words, if the noise didn’t go away, then it was likely there was a cambelt tensioner or water pump failure. Not much fun. Of course, access was pretty horrible. Citroen are the specialists in awkward access.

I've missed Citroen engine access...

I’ve missed Citroen engine access…

Removing the tension was difficult, as the bottom bolt holding the tensioner was very reluctant to move. In the end, I opted to remove the alternator instead.

Alternator removed, there's the problem pulley.

Alternator removed, is that the problem pulley?

With the belt now removed, I started the engine again.

Yes, that’s pretty conclusive I’d say. I then gave the alternator and power steering pump a spin by hand. Nice and quiet. The tensioner for the auxiliary belt was another matter entirely. It was grumbling even at slow speed. There we go then. Nowhere to buy one on a Sunday afternoon, so an online order was duly placed with GSF Car Parts.

Given I couldn’t drive it anywhere, I spent some time on Monday giving the ZX a wash. It really is a fine looking motor.

A fine looking motor.

A fine looking motor.

I like how it’s unmistakably a Citroen, despite being very conventional, and very Peugeot under the skin. Like the XM, Bertone had a hand in the styling, though Citroen’s own stylists were very hands-on at this time, producing their own proposals that influenced Bertone’s work. Mind you, a different design language was on its way, and the ZX was the last Citroen introduced with a single windscreen wiper. Well, until the Toyota-based C1 and Mitsubishi-based C-Zero, and they at least had the decency to have a pantograph single wiper. This means no unswept area right in front of the driver’s face.

I digress. Today, the new tensioner arrived. I thought fitting it would be easy, so did some page-proofing before heading outside with the new part. Straight away, there was a problem. Unbeknown to me, the bottom mouting bolt had actually sheared off as I removed it on Sunday. Oh dear. A proper solution at this stage would have been to drill out the remains and tap the thread out to something larger. That probably meant removing the bracket for the alternator and power steering pump, which meant disconnecting the latter. Sod that.

So, I came up with a bodge. Applying tension to the tensioner left space above the bottom right angle to get a nut in. I used washers as spacers as the bolt I had was too long to start with. It would have been trying to apply too much tension. My first attempt failed, with a squeal disiplaying the lack of tension quite adequately. I reduced the washer count and had another go. Success!

Fantastic bodgery.

Fantastic bodgery.

Incidentally, I couldn’t get the new belt to fit, so the old one has gone back on for now. Perhaps I’ll replace it at some point. Perhaps I’ll do something better than my bodge. Perhaps I’ll never get around to it, the belt will snap and it’ll take the alternator belt with it…

Until next time!

Project 2CV: Patience…

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Elly’s bodyshell, and it was good.

2cv refurbished body

It’s all metal again!

I’m staggered by the good work Alan has done. All that rotten metal is gone and around £1100-worth of panels have been welded in. Factoring in labour, even at a very friendly rate, total expenditure is already running at considerably more than £2000. The scary thing is, this still doesn’t leave me with a finished car! There’s still a lot to do.

In fact, progress will be slowing for a considerable while, as I want the bodyshell painted in cellulose, as per the original, rather than two pack. Had I opted for two pack, then the body could have been finished and painted this week. It isn’t though. It’ll take longer to get a ‘window’ for a cellulose session, and there are quite a few other things to sort out as well.

Primarily, that’s the doors and bonnet. The original bonnet has been deemed scrap, but Alan has sourced a better one. That’ll still need some fettling no doubt, but the doors definitely need some work. So, things are not yet really ready for paint at all. I’m aiming to paint the red bits myself to keep the costs down.

Thankfully, recent editorial work means I’ve been able to add considerably to the project fund myself. I’ve also had some parts donated – thanks John Stenhouse for donating a set of good wheels and tyres. That’s saved me a good £400. There’s still a long way to go though, even if the running gear generally seems good. Plus, my new tow car, the RAV4, has had a timing belt tensioner go down – thankfully it hasn’t taken the timing belt with it, but it has put a dent in my funds.

That’s about it for now. Alan is so busy, and I’m such a pain, that progress will be slow. He has a great many restoration projects to get sorted, some with much more urgent deadlines than mine. I’m certainly not going to have Elly on the road before the end of the summer, so I’m afraid you’ll all have to sit back and wait like I am. At the start of this year, I didn’t think the restoration was going to happen at all, so I’ve no complaints about waiting a bit longer. All I need to do is resist buying something else in the interim. Er…

2CV angle grinder

Project 2CV: Chop Chop!

I’m just back home after a remarkably enjoyable few days on the road. I’ll tell you about the other stuff some other time, but as many of you have chucked money into my project fund, it seems only right to first focus on the 2CV. So here goes!

I got to Citwins in Bradford at about quarter to ten this morning. Not as early as I’d planned, as I managed to end up at Alan’s house after entering the wrong postcode! Clearly, my brain was not firing on all cylinders on this sunny Monday morning.

Tea was consumed, and we looked at Elly’s naked body and talked through the plan. Which was mostly for Alan to get an angle grinder out and start chopping. A few minutes later, that’s exactly what he started doing after removing the windscreen and rear side glass.

2CV angle grinder

Alan starts chopping out the rot.

Note the trolley that the bodyshell is resting on. This is a jig that allows Alan to line up all the bolt holes. A bolt-in frame is holding up the front bulkhead here, which allows him to do some serious chopping. So serious in fact that a short time later, this happened!

2CV chopped up

Eek! Floors and lower bulkhead chopped out in one piece.

Yes, that’s the entire floor, sills, lower bulkhead and chunks of the C posts all off in one piece. A lot of rotten bodywork. Alan was hampered by previous welding work carried out by my mate Dave. Never let it be said that Dave’s welds aren’t solid! Though I was sad to see bits of our old washing machine heading for the scrap bin. It amused me to have the dead machine living on in my 2CV.

After this, Alan noticed a problem with what remained of the bulkhead. It was four layers in places, where new metal had been let in over the old metal. This would be a right pain to weld to. The decision was made to chop even more bulkhead out. At this point, Alan had to dash off for more repair panels. The rear seat box was also in worse shape than predicted. Nearly all of it would need replacing.

After he returned, and more tea was consumed, more prep work was undertaken. The lower bulkhead was chopped out and the old seat box removed. Alan then started to fit the jig he uses to put the A, B and C posts in the correct position. This allows fitment of new sills in a manner which hopefully allows the doors to close correctly. The person who previously fitted the sills, not a 2CVer, didn’t have such a jig. Which is probably why I could get my hand out of the bottom of the passenger door, even when it was closed…

I went to fetch lunch in the meantime, and when I got back, new metal had been installed!

2cv c post

New C post section tacked in. Note jig (red) to hold the body in shape.

I was astonished. This had gone from a teardown to a restoration in seemingly no time at all. There is still more rot to be chopped out – notably the inner rear wings, boot floor, rear light panel and windscreen panel. There are other spots of localised rot to sort out too. That work can take place once the structure is more solid again.

With the new A and C posts tacked into place, the sills could then follow. After that, the lower bulkhead (a larger piece than first intended), floors and rear seat box could follow. Suddenly, it looked rather more like a solid 2CV shell again!

2cv refurbished bodyshell

Looking better! Panels tacked and clamped into place.

How utterly fantastic. Sure, there’s still a lot of work to do, but I had to leave just after the above photo was taken, and that was at 3pm. It seemed a pretty decent showing for five hours of work, especially as parts-fetching took up a good half an hour, and we had a (very) brief pause for lunch too.

We are so fortunate with 2CVs that so many aftermarket panels are available. Very little has to be constructed from scratch and after many years of production, a lot of these panels seem to fit pretty well. That wasn’t always the case! It saves huge amounts of time, though the panel bill alone for this restoration is going to be over £1400 I suspect. I’ve already spent £1260 of the project fund, which leaves a rather perilous £860 for labour. I suspect this will not be enough by quite some way. Restoration is an expensive business!

However, your support has made this happen. I’m hugely grateful for that. Even with my improved finances of late, this project just would not be possible. As it stands, there’s now a really good chance of me getting Elly back on the road in time for mine and Rachel’s tenth wedding anniversary in July. Obviously, the 2CV needs to be a key part of this, just as she was before. I’ve got my work cut out!

2CV wedding car

A very special day, almost ten years ago!

PS – If you’ve seen pics of me swanning about in a Jaguar XJS, I should point out that it isn’t mine! Don’t worry, Project Elly funds are for Project Elly only.

Video: XM steering woes

A general state of Very Busy has prevented me churning out as many videos as I would have liked this year, but I’m starting to get back on top of things! In this video, I explore my Citroen XM’s hydraulic system, to cure notchy steering, felt as intermittent power assistance and something that can affect any hydraulic Citroen – especially BX, XM and Xantia.

Here’s how I fixed it.

I still absolutely love this car by the way. On the right roads, it’s just an absolute joy. Around town, a bit less so, but I’ll be booking it in soon for clutch replacement. That should improve things!

Caravans and stupidity

I’ve been enjoying my new caravan quite a lot, and even spent some time today sitting in and working. With the enormous front window open and fantastic velour to sit upon, it was all rather pleasant. I have also managed to get my ‘collection caper’ video online, and here it is.

With family visits not very far away, I thought it was time I tried to get to the bottom of the XM’s horrible suspension clonk today. Having managed to drive many hundreds of miles since it first started doing it, I’d reasoned that it was unlikely that anything would fall off. It probably already would have done. But, I really wanted to know what it was!

I got a message from Pete Sparrow at ‘very early’ this morning, which said ‘it’s today or never mate.’ So, I quickly had a bite to eat and jumped in the XM to head to Hereford and some Sparrow diagnostics. Pete somehow found time in his usual, frenetic schedule to have a quick test drive, and deduced that it could be a brake caliper issue. When we got back, I jacked up the XM and removed the road wheel and sure enough, Pete quickly spotted that the brake pad anti-rattle spring was missing. Oops. I now remembered that I was struggling to fit it and put it to one side to fit later. It wasn’t meant to be two months later… Still, the noise was just the pads rattling around, so at least I knew it wasn’t serious.

Oops. There should be a spring here!

Oops. There should be a spring here!

While I was there, I took Pete’s advice and swapped some tyres about. When I refitted my Continental Winter Contact TS850 tyres last Autumn, I only realised afterwards that I’d successfully rotated the offside tyres front and rear, but put the same front tyre on the nearside that had been in place the previous winter. Now, after two winters of my hooning, the inside of the tread had very definitely been worn away. Slightly low tyre pressures certainly didn’t help, and I also wonder whether the wishbone bushes are past their best. Fact remains though that two winters of use has been pretty much enough for that tyre. The softer compound does cause these tyres to wear out more readily. I don’t currently have a set of summer tyres to switch back to. Something I’ll need to address, as sunny motorway miles are particularly unkind to winter tyres.

On returning home, after getting some important work done on Classic Jaguar magazine (felt appropriate to do some of this in the caravan), I set about sorting the XM’s brakes. It didn’t take too long to whip the wheel off and refit the anti-rattle spring. I also fitted new wiper blades – aero ones. Not a fan of the aesthetics, but hopefully they’ll take the stress out of driving in the rain. Quite important in Wales. Of course, not everything went to plan and I did almost managed to crash the XM into the Nippa. And I caught it on video!

XM: I hate servicing

I really dislike servicing cars, mostly because I seem to be completely unable to do it without spilling horrible liquids all over the place. Thankfully for my driveway, I learnt long ago that putting cardboard down beneath the car is a useful way of capturing most of the spillage.

The XM has covered 10,500 miles since its previous service last summer, so it really was time to do it again. The oil was dropped, most of it going into the catch tanks (two because the capacity is over 5 litres) and quite a bit over the sump as I removed the oil filter. Situation normal, but at least I managed to avoid getting oil drippled down my arm. It must be said, there are worse places to carry out a service too. Look at that view!

Not a bad spot eh?

Not a bad spot eh?

With the oil dropped and a new filter in place, I could fill the engine with lovely, fresh oil. Comma Oil‘s website recommended its 5w40 Syner-G oil. I wasn’t going to argue and while 5w feels like water at cold temperatures, it should firm up nicely with engine heat. The lower cold rating should allow for happier starting during the winter. I look forward to testing this.

Syner-G oil from Comma, as recommended.

Syner-G oil from Comma, as recommended.

I then replaced the air filter, which is simplicity itself. The fuel filter turned into an utter debacle though. The box size worried me for a start, as the new filter looked shorter than I remembered. I foolishly went ahead and pulled the filter housing apart, spilling fuel all over the sodding place as I did. There may have been cursing, especially as I’d arranged a catch can specially – then missed it. I wiped up the mess as best I could, cursed again when I realised just how spectacularly wrong the new filter was, and then had to just refit the old filter – which fortunately seemed in good order. That’s reassuring, as I have experimented with vegetable oil on this engine – which it didn’t seem to like. Certainly, there were no bits of gunk in the canister this time. I recall there were last time I did a filter change (I somehow avoided too much spillage that time).

All this faffing about lost me time, so I haven’t been able to check the rear brakes as yet. I know the pads are a bit low, because they have been for about 13,000 miles so far. Not desperately low, but I do keep a set of pads in the boot just in case! I’ll try to find time to do that next week. I know the front brakes are ok, as I’ve just overhauled them. Similarly, I’ve kept an eye on other areas of the car. I do need to do an LHM change and filter clean, but lack the necessary tool for the pipe connectors. I’ll leave that for another time rather than destroy the clips.

But, I really did need to give the poor girl a wash. It’s only a few weeks since it was last done, but she was quite grim! Not now.

Sparkly clean!

Sparkly clean!

I’m annoyed to have added another scrape to the many the previous owner had already put on this car. While in Yorkshire, I failed to spot a stone jutting out of a bank as I squeezed past a car that looked like it was going to stop for me, but didn’t. There’s now a scrape just above the bumper on the nearside front wing. Oh well. At least there are plenty of other scars already!

I don’t like to leave a car sitting after a wash, as the brakes benefit from a good dry out. Also, after a service, it’s a foolish man/woman who doesn’t go for a test drive. I’m glad I did, because it revealed that diesel had made its way onto the clutch plate. BOTHER. Or similar, possibly stronger words applied, as the revs shot up as the boost kicked in.

I dashed back home, splashed Jizer degreaser all over the engine, and hosed it off. I did this twice and went for another drive. Still slipping, but less so. By feathering the throttle, I could avoid slippage. Those ‘manual traction control’ off-road skills were coming in useful!

Steam! Trying to wash away the diesel.

Steam! Trying to wash away the diesel.

I’m now very glad that I did this job after hauling the 2CV’s body to Bradford and not before. Getting up the M62 with a slipping clutch would have been a most frustrating business! I now hope I haven’t finished this clutch off completely. I suspect it could be the original, and no, I really don’t fancy having to change it.

On the plus side, the engine bay looks a lot cleaner after the degreasing session! Still, it has been a very frustrating afternoon as once again, a simple service proves anything but.

Product Test: Pocket-size jump pack

These things have been intriguing me for a while now. How can such a tiny battery start a hefty car engine? So, with German Classics magazine completed and some actual money in my bank account, I went on that there Ebay and purchased one of these jump packs for just £31.75. It was time for a proper review to test exactly what it could do.

Can this unbranded pack really start a car?

Can this unbranded pack really start a car?

It’s entirely unbranded and built in China – fast becoming the country to head to if you want cheap battery tech. It isn’t just a jump pack – there is a really powerful torch, and it comes with several different bundles of wires with which you can power everything from phones to laptops and even, as I discovered, a musical keyboard…

But obviously the key question is, can it start a car? You’ll have to check my video review to find out, but I tested the pack on an 847cc Perodua Nippa, a 1596cc Mazda 2 saloon and a 2088cc Citroen XM turbo diesel. Diesel engines are a challenge for any battery, as the engines use a compression ratio twice that of a petrol engine. They literally squeeze the air to the point that it gets hot enough to ignite the fuel without an external spark. They’re not very easy to turn therefore.

What truly amazes is not only how small these packs are, but how light. And that highlights exactly why electric vehicles (EV) have become viable at long last. My XM uses a huge, heavy lead-acid battery that requires serious effort to lift. If the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S used lead acid batteries, the packs would be simply enormous to get the same range. They’d probably have to tow another LEAF or Model S behind them packed full of batteries. I suspect performance would be impacted somewhat.

So these jump packs demonstrate just how far battery technology has come on. And now at such low price too! Sure, larger lead-acid battery packs may include air compressors to deal with a flat tyres, but those compressors (in my experience) usually break after very little time. So my mind is made up. The future is jump packs you can fit in your pocket. It’s the clearest sign yet of why the EV revolution has arrived in town.


XM brakes – conclusions

So, I haven’t quite got the XM’s brakes sorted, but I’m getting closer! The offside front caliper has a new slider and boots and new discs and pads have been fitted both sides.

XM fettling frustrated by weather.

XM fettling frustrated by weather.

It was an absolute sod of a job that just ate up hours like you would hardly believe. Especially as rain often interrupted play. Ok, so some (er maybe lots) of time was spent hunting for tools – I’ve come to expect this. But an awful lot of time was lost just faffing about with stuff. Winding the pistons back in to clear the new pads was one such task, though that became a lot easier when I discovered that a 3/4″ socket fits on the piston, so you can wind it back in with a ratchet and apply the necessary pressure for the piston to go back. Certainly a lot easier than trying to wind them back in with a screwdriver.

Fitting the new slider seals was a pain too, and I’m worried that I’ve actually managed to damage both seals as I was fitting them. Frustrating. However, the protection is still better than it was. It’s been an interesting learning experience.

Yet, there is a problem. The offside caliper’s parking brake mechanism is simply not functioning. A fairly simple set-up apparently, so when it stops raining (oh please stop raining!) I’ll have to get the wheel off and have another go.

But it’s all rather frustrating. This job was really a complete faff only because the XM uses single-pot calipers. I’m sure the brakes would be far better AND far more reliable if twin-pot calipers were used. Then there would be no need for sliders and there would simply be less to go wrong.

In a conventional car, twin-pot calipers can still cause issues, as the pistons can seize in the pots. Not so much of an issue on a Citroen. Why is that? Simply because LHM is the best brake fluid in the world.

Seriously, I have no idea why DOT fluids are used. Why could it possibly be better to use a fluid which not only absorbs moisture (which then rots out brake lines and caliper pistons) but which will seriously damage bodywork if spilt? LHM does neither of these things, which is why issues with pistons seizing in the caliper are so rare.

It is kind of indicative for me of the general decline of engineering in the 20th century. We invent something as excellent as the disc brake, then spend the next few decades cheapening the design to make it less efficient. Go humanity!

If all the brake faff wasn’t enough, I then decided to replace the bulb in the clock. This required me to remove half of the dashboard and was also a stupid, annoying, fiddly job. This really does highlight that manufacturers really don’t care if a car becomes difficult to work on. It’s not on the design brief. That for me is another failing. Why would you design something that needs maintenance to be horrible to work on?

XM dash

All this just to change the bulb in the sodding clock!

I suppose I should consider myself lucky. It is at least possible to change a headlamp bulb without having to dismantle the entire front end of the car. Sometimes, old cars really are best.

Anyway, here’s my latest video covering the above!