Friday, January 2, 2015

A Refresher Course in British Automobiles

I've had more than one British automobile worm it's way into my garage, and my heart.

It started in the Serengetti.  A Land Rover. So many switches, but fortunately, no matter which one I tried, the same thing happened. Nothing. It had all kinds of gauges, most there to fill up a hole in the dash, many unlabeled, which would be the automotive equivalent of "Door Number 3!"

I thought for a moment of flipping one labeled "FAN".  Rumors were a pilot had done that once and was never seen again. I knew better, getting back to base just as the light faded completely. For a moment I thought I'd light a match to see how much gas I had left before noting most of the vehicle was full of cans of gas (for when the gauge went in one nano-second from Full to Empty), I think not.

But I survived that little mission and the Rover wagon. . . .

Only to come home and find one in my garage Not a Rover, but a little Triumph in need of some restoring. OK. I hadn't planned on it. It was given to me for a little flying job I did that the person didn't have the money to pay for when his wife split. OK. It was worth  more than he owed me, even in the condition it was in, so why not?  It needed a new clutch plate, paint and some spiffing up, but really, everything works, it just needs a new battery.

New battery? Check. New clutch plate?  I can do that!  No, I can do that after pulling the whole $&#* transmission out with help. Then it was time to work on the wiring.  When you have a British car it's ALWAYS time to work on the wiring. I did not do it well. My entire wiring experience at that time, was the ability to draw the entire electrical system of a Boeing 727 on a cocktail napkin after 3 beers and old movies where someone with wire cutters  is saying "red wire, blue wire?" while sweat beads down their brow and something is ticking.

The automobile ended up as Day VFR only. I had figured the lights were the "blackout" version that was common during the War, and my car someone came with them standard.

I tried different things, including the familiar grey shape of rolled welding technology.  Once in a while the brake lights would blink at me like a firefly, but never when the brakes were actually applied.

Oh, but soon I was besotted, with bits and pieces of British car all over the shop floor and de-greaser in my shower, myself curled up in the Lotus position, wedged there under the dash muttering "OHM" as my meditative mantra. It wasn't long before I'd heard many things about Mr. Lucas, especially about him being the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper.

If you've not seen one, it's something to beyold. There's the wonder of the wiper trembling before you, hesitant to move, to break that spell, then suddenly, with a leap of faith, it flings itself upon the glass, back and forth in its death throes, then stillness and tears of rain against the glass for such a brief life. That sort of thing makes you believe in a higher power (and Rain-X and Triple AAA).

If you can't find one or afford one,  you too can have the experience.  Go rent the smallest car you can find and take it out on a completely isolated, uninhabited country road.  Turn down the radio so you can hear all the new sounds.  Roll down your window, turn off ALL the lights and start flinging new Twenty Dollar bills out the window while your passenger flicks a Bic lighter on and off somewhere near the dash as you attempt to maintain centerline at varying high speeds and sounds that range from "Woo Hoo! Autobahn!" to "is that a hard rubber dog toy in my crank case?"  It comes close.

So for my friends,

Miss D., who is coming to visit this weekend with her husband Peter, I present (with a hat tip to my friend Marty in Canada). . . .


Positive ground depends on proper circuit functioning, which is the transmission of negative ions by retention of the visible spectral manifestation known as "smoke". Smoke is the thing that makes electrical circuits work. We know this to be true because every time one lets the smoke out of an electrical circuit, it stops working. This can be verified repeatedly through empirical testing.

For example, if one places a copper bar across the terminals of a battery, prodigious quantities of smoke are liberated and the battery shortly ceases to function. In addition, if one observes smoke escaping from an electrical component such as a Lucas voltage regulator, it will also be observed that the component no longer functions. The logic is elementary and inescapable!

The function of the wiring harness is to conduct the smoke from one device to another. When the wiring springs a leak and lets all the smoke out of the system, nothing works afterward.

Starter motors were considered unsuitable for British motorcycles for some time largely because they consumed large quantities of smoke, requiring very unsightly large wires.

It has been reported that Lucas electrical components are possibly more prone to electrical leakage than their Bosch, Japanese or American counterparts. Experts point out that this is because Lucas is British, and all things British leak. British engines leak oil, British shock absorbers, hydraulic forks and disk brake systems leak fluid, British tires leak air and British Intelligence leaks national defense secrets.

Therefore, it follows that British electrical systems must leak smoke. Once again, the logic is clear and inescapable.

In conclusion, the basic concept of transmission of electrical energy in the form of smoke provides a logical explanation of the mysteries of electrical components especially British units manufactured by Joseph Lucas, Ltd.

And remember: "A gentleman does not motor about after dark."

Joseph Lucas "The Prince of Darkness"

So that's it folks, a little HOTR British Car advice. And remember, if you do fall under the spell of one, only to have to sell it,  just remember you can always install a dead battery and blame everything on that. - Brigid