I don’t want you to get the wrong impression about my cars – in case I need to sell one to you some day. Any new rattles or buzzes get diagnosed to assess how serious they are, fluffing or hesitation is chased round and resolved, moving parts are kept moving and components intended to be static are tied down.
This particularly applies when using a car in competition. I don’t want to be storming up towards a tight chicane between unforgiving dry stone walls, wondering whether that degraded anti-roll bar bush will choose this moment to let go. No, the important things get seen to, and probably replaced more often than they need to be. Preventative maintenance is the order of the day and that reflects in results.
So why do I have a tendency to put off the simple jobs, that don’t make the car drive any better, but would make my life so much easier? Regular readers will have seen my BMW 2002 historic rally car on these pages, and if I say so myself, it’s quite a tidy thing for a hard-working competition weapon. There are a couple of bits that are deliberately a little rough and ready, particularly some of the chrome strips and the bonnet. My logic is that these parts are in the firing line for damage and are expensive to replace, so while the car still gets used as intended, I’ll keep the less than perfect trim fitted and replace it with the good stuff if I ever sell it. The bonnet has a fair touch of filler and the paint shows it, but when stickers are being slapped on and peeled off regularly, you don’t want to waste money on immaculate paintwork. Anyway, it keeps the rain off the engine which is surely the primary function, and when it’s in place it’s fine. The problem has been when I need to reveal the engine, because the bonnet came without the factory lifter mechanism. The 2002 bonnet opens forwards and the standard lifter comprises of a torsion bar linked to pivoting arms. With this in place the bonnet can be lifted by hand, then once it gets to the top of its travel, the spring tension takes over to hold it securely at a steep angle to allow pretty good access to all areas. It’s quite a neat and clever mechanical solution from a time before widespread adoption of gas struts. However, my bonnet had none of this, and for the last two and a half years I have been subsisting.
The first solution was a cut fence post with one end being whittled to a point and the other end having a slotted grove. This could be wedged into a pressing in the scuttle and the bonnet balanced on to the grooved end. In the garage or some other place where it doesn’t get windy this worked ok from a functional perspective, but it was quite bulky to store in the boot and needed to be ratchet strapped down. Anything involving more than a quick check of the oil, would involve jumping out of the driver’s seat, running round to the back of the car, running back again to get the key to unlock the boot, negotiating the fence post free from its strap, running to the front of the car whilst being careful not to take out any bystanders with a waving length of wood, pulling the pins to release the bonnet, lifting the panel nearly vertical with one hand and slotting the fence post in place with the other, then carefully lining the two up whilst lowering the bonnet. Easy, I’m sure you’ll agree. Clearly my main concern was the heavy post harming our power to weight ratio so, after a year or so, a lighter solution was required. I bought an extendable bonnet prop from a mail order trade catalogue. I figured that anything sold to trade should be of reasonable quality, so I stumped up the £20 and waited for delivery in a state of some anticipation. Carefully unwrapping the prop, I was pleased to see adjustable rubber ends and an easy extension action, so I was quite satisfied when I placed it against the scuttle and let the bonnet settle onto the other end. A microsecond is defined as one millionth of a second, which is approximately how long it took for the prop to fail and the bonnet to smack down on my shoulder. I got my money back.
The prop idea was all very well, but I was still having visions of being stuck by the side of the A1 trunk road in the cold and wet with lorries thundering past, and the turbulence flipping the bonnet forwards and ripping it free of its mountings causing untold damage. I decided to fix the problem properly, so looked for a secondhand torsion bar and before long one turned up locally at a reasonable price. Whichever car it had been on, had clearly been green, then yellow and maybe even red, so a quick tart up with a rattle can of satin black was required. I needed to buy some paint and ideally wait for a nice day so I could prep the bar and work outside, so in the interim I would need a quick solution for an upcoming rally. I took a few measurements and headed to my favoured local breakers yard. They don’t stack cars vertically anymore, but it’s a good old traditional muddy yard carpeted with broken glass, where you can wander around and remove everything yourself. They keep any occasional classics separated out and normally try to sell anything unusual that’s vaguely salvageable, rather than immediately issuing a certificate of destruction. I was looking for a bonnet prop, either long or short but not in between, to give me some options for mounting and mating with the bodywork. Various hulks were inspected, but I found a Ford Mondeo and Tata Loadbeta offered parts that looked vaguely correct. A few small coins changed hands and I headed home quite pleased with myself, ultimately finding the Mondeo bonnet rod gave the best position and angle, even fitting into an existing hole on the front panel of the BMW. It was almost made for it, if you ignore the fact that it was still gravity dependent at the top. Anyway, once I’d sanded and painted the torsion bar we’d be away and flying.
A year passed. Four seasons came and went. Trump was inaugurated as President of America, the Duke of Edinburgh retired and I ate 365 dinners. Somehow I never needed to open the bonnet on a windy day, but I knew I was pushing my luck. I retrieved the car from storage last week and painted the torsion bar. It’s a two man job to fit, so with the help of a responsible adult we bolted it up. Then we took it off again and bolted it the right way. Total fitting time, about one hour. The bonnet raises and holds. It can’t blow away. It’s like witchcraft. I’ve just been into the garage again for no other reason than to marvel at this wonder of the modern age.
How can it possibly have taken me so long to sort this out? I mean, seriously, what is wrong with me, that I can knowingly inconvenience myself for so long by not fixing a simple problem, even when I actually have the solution literally leaning up against the garage wall, all green and yellow, waiting to be painted up and do its job?
The rally championship I compete in is for one day events and doesn’t have much mileage in the dark any more. However, the headlamps are typical of an old car, so for driving to remote hotels and rally HQs I’ve got a couple of spotlights bolted to the bumper. The bumper flexes a bit so the lamps vibrate a little, but it’s not really a problem as we’re not travelling at competitive speed. It would be better with a sturdy lamp bracket like on my other car, but the issue could be easily solved by mounting a couple of steady bars up to the front panel. This would probably cost a tenner in parts and take a couple of hours to do neatly. You know what, I think I’ll actually get round to it. Soon.
What small jobs have you been putting off? What is the worst procrastination you have been guilty of? Why don’t you just get out there and sort it out, instead of sitting in front of your computer???