21 Jun One to watch for…Replica 1925 MG – Old No. 1.
Posted at 09:23h in 2021
When I finished restoring my 1927 Morris Light Van I had a pile of spare parts left over and decided to make something fun out of them. I had seen photos of Old No. 1 before and had always admired its simplicity so I decided to have a go making something similar. I had placed an ad Beaded Wheels hoping to find some three stud wire wheels and was contacted by Neville Mann in Dunedin who while not having the wheels, did have a large amount of information regarding Old No. 1 and the rare ammeter/light switch. From detailed photographs to drawings of specially made parts such as the steering box mount and rear chassis rails, it was all there. Now we were talking, I was going to make this thing properly!
While I had a fair amount of parts to start with, I was missing a few major things…. chassis frame, a differential and torque tube, and a decent Oxford front brake drum, all of which I was able to purchase from Tom Mazey in New Plymouth. I had gone to have a look at his Oxford, and there, tied up against the fence with cacti growing out of its rails was a Bullnose chassis frame. A look behind the shed found a Bullnose diff with torque tube and the missing Oxford brake drum! Now that I had all the major bits, work on the chassis frame could commence.
The engine mounts were moved back in the frame 130mm, I made a new centre cross-member using a narrowed up flat-nose one and rear crossmember was removed. After cutting out new rear chassis ends from 3mm plate following the plans provided by Neville Mann I spliced these into the frame just past the front rear spring hanger. Timber moulds were made up for the rear spring hangers and these were sent away to be cast in steel. The castings were then machined at my workplace with a 20mm steel bar threaded between them and fitted to the chassis frame. Then came the time consuming job of welding in all the nuts and bolts and boxing in the whole chassis. The engine I have used is a 1924 type CE, bored out to +60 thou oversize with a Cowley cylinder head with 20 thou shaved off. The crankshaft, conrods and flywheel have all been balanced with the large flange machined off the flywheel to lighten it up.
I came across a genuine Delco Remy coil conversion at the Christchurch swap-meet so this has been fitted too. I would have liked to use a period OHV conversion however I haven’t had any luck finding one. The gearbox is more or less standard, the only difference being that I have had new clutch friction plates water jet cut out without the cork holes and had modern linings which are designed to run in oil bonded to them. I decided that the standard 4.75 : 1 diff ratio would be a bit sedate for such a sporty looking machine and I had drawings for an adapter plate to fit a 1928 Chevrolet crown wheel and pinion which is 4.2 : 1. Mark Morgan from Levin just so happened to have a matched pair and better still they were new old stock! These were purchased and I had a good mate who is handy with a lathe machine up the adapter plate for me. Amazing what you can get done for a box of beer! Because the engine had been moved back in the chassis I had to shorten the driveshaft and torque tube so a section was cut out of the tube and then welded back up and the same amount removed from the driveshaft. It was re-splined by a local engineering firm and the taper re-machined to accept the Chev pinion gear.
Finally I made up a pair of braces to mount from each end of the rear axle up to the mid-point of the torque tube for added rigidity. Luckily I work for a general engineering shop so I was able to make use of the sandblasting and painting facilities as well as a good supply of steel. By this point I’d given up on ever finding a set of correct wire wheels so it was decided that we would make some instead. My parents, Neil & Robin, had just come back from a holiday in Britain and while they were over there they stopped in at Gaydon and inspected Old No. 1 herself. As well as taking many much needed photos, Dad made an accurate drawing of the wheel hub profile. Once home again, Dad spun up a scale timber template on the wood lathe and took it in to a local machine shop who were able to copy the template and machine brand new wheel hubs out of steel billet. Next we had new wheel rims made by a firm in Christchurch. We decided to go with well base rather than beaded edge for the sake of safety as well as cost. The hubs and rims were then drilled, dimpled, spoked and finally painted by my wife Amber who just so happens to be an automotive painter by trade. Next up was the fuel tank which unfortunately we did not have a pattern for however I think we’ve got it pretty close going by all our photos. A timber buck was made up which was used to wrap the steel sheet around to form the main tank shape. We then made two baffles and two ends which were fitted into place, spot welded, riveted and soldered up. the spout came from an old tank that was slowly rotting away in the farm shed and the brass cap was machined up by Roy King in Kaponga. Next came making the body of the vehicle.
This was dad’s part of the project really. He has done a lot of coach building over the years building bodies for numerous vintage and veteran cars. He took a huge amount of measurements of the original vehicle while at Gaydon so believes he has it accurate. He has added some extra structure to the woodwork for rigidity as the original cars body frame is fairly spindly. We made up the aluminium sides of the car ourselves as these were within our panel beating ability however Terry Price in Wanganui made the boat tail and scuttle sections. He is now making the wind deflector and bonnet for the vehicle and we will hopefully get the car back soon!