Vulgalour's Vehicles - 10/03 Ignition Switch Woe

Post pictures and stories about your cars both present and past. Also post up "blogs" on your restoration projects - the more pictures the better! Note: blog-type threads often get few replies, but are often read by many members, and provide interest and motivation to other enthusiasts so don't be disappointed if you don't get many replies.
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vulgalour
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Vulgalour's Vehicles - 10/03 Ignition Switch Woe

#1 Post by vulgalour » Mon Sep 23, 2013 11:05 pm

Always tough to start a new thread on a new forum to cover old ground and get everyone up to speed. So, if you want to read the whole gory story there are two links below. Otherwise, I'll provide a brief rundown of my two classics.

1980 Austin Morris Princess 2 1700HL - 1981 Austin Morris Princess 2 2000HLS

Funnily enough, I hadn't expected to get either car. When I got the first Princess I was interested in buying one as they seemed to tick all the boxes on paper but I thought I'd have a long wait until I found what I was after. I did not expect to be the owner of a Princess in the trim level and engine size I wanted, nor that I'd find it just a few miles from home. Ever since then I've not looked back. This is what my brother spotted back in February of 2012 entirely by chance and reported back to me. A knock on the door and a note left for the owner who was out at the time netted a viewing and the car was purchased with short T&T for a modest £450.
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Useless wipers, one headlight blown, dashlights that wouldn't work, no reversing lights, suspension that had sagged too low, tyres that were the wrong size, a blowing exhaust and an engine that didn't sound healthy combined with an interior that was a bit damp and both sticky and shiny from the traditional silicone-everything approach to car cleaning made for a rough drive back for my Dad. Would have driven it myself but there were some insurance uncertainties. It was really very cold too.
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Later the same night I got to drive it myself and found that the steering was very heavy, the gear selection less than brilliant and while it should have been a disappointing experience I knew this was the car for me and I had fallen for it. I don't think I had ever been in a car so comfortable before.
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The car had received a restoration in the 90s going off what information came with it and had up until that point been a daily driver for a Leeds United fan. The restoration was a sloppy thing, the paint finish was, and still is, terrible being not only the wrong shade but applied badly. To cut a very long story short, the car needed extensive fettling to get it sorted including new points, condenser, track rod ends, suspension pump up, rear drum shoes, handbrake cable adjustment, gear lever fixing, fuse replacement, timing adjustment, carburettor service, air filter, coolant... you name it, this car has pretty much had it done.

Eventually, though, she was primed for service and when my '85 Polo decided to highlight more problems than I could solve the Princess became my daily driver. There was a small incident where her nose got put out of joint on the way to an MoT which she later passed (only failed on a tyre that I thought was borderline) that saw me borrowing an automatic Austin Maestro to commute... which I replaced when I bought a '98 "Ledbury" Maestro, which in turn was replaced by a very rusty '91 Citroen BX estate (which was amazing! I'd have one again) and in turn replaced that with a '84 Golf cabriolet that had been languishing in a field... that meant she wasn't my daily driver for a while.

Sometimes, I do have the worst luck. This poor old thing has ended up battered and bruised but I persevere because she's a tough, reliable (now) old thing that's super comfortable and I couldn't replace her even if I tried. Best of all, I can maintain this car on a shoestring budget, which is all I have. We've been to car shows, like RAF Waddington's do.
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Survived break downs.
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When a neighbour reversed into the car in their Corsa, that was survived and repaired on the drive using improvised panel beating tools.
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Had a gut-wrenching incident that nearly saw the car written off.
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But that was fixed with yet more experience, a Maestro, some hammers and being fortunate on eBay.
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Really, with a car like this, you have to laugh.
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Now, touch-wood, she's gremlin free and I've enjoyed using her everyday for every thing. The Golf has gone to pastures new very recently because I wasn't getting on with it and has been replaced with another Princess... more on that story in just a moment.
Last edited by vulgalour on Fri Mar 10, 2017 6:33 pm, edited 86 times in total.

vulgalour
Posts: 674
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Re: Austin Morris Princess X2

#2 Post by vulgalour » Mon Sep 23, 2013 11:49 pm

Before I tell you about the '81 Princess I have, there's still some more of the '80 Princess' tale to tell. I had got the nose end straight enough to be sure things weren't ruined. Lights all worked and I'd made a start on paint to tidy up the nose a bit. I was hunting for a replacement bonnet and eventually a wing but funds, as always, were very tight. Then it snowed.
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Then it snowed some more.
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Then some wheels turned up at a price I couldn't afford to miss. Sensibly, I couldn't afford them but using Man Logic a plan was hatched and I trundled off in the Maestro. Superbly reliable machine, but woefully slow - 1.3 A+ with a VW van gearbox as per all Ledbury built ones - and a seating position that ruined my back. This would be the last journey I willfully undertook before selling this car.
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Same fitment as the Lotus, these alloys look like they were designed for the Princess. They're still awaiting refurbishment, tyres and suitable nuts before I fit them.
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Many things happened, but mostly I enjoyed driving the car at any opportunity and attending shows. Eventually I found a garage that still did hydragas work, happened to be one that specialised in it about 2 miles from where I was living. So finally after about a year of waiting in my ownership, the Princess got put back to the proper height. I was astonished at how much it improved handling and further how much it improved the comfort in an already comfortable car.
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More recently we attended Renishaw Hall show and an acquaintance from another forum took an incredibly flattering picture of the old girl.
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In other adventures, my brother was let down last minute moving house, so the Princess was called upon to become a removal van. Did exceptionally well with the seats removed too.
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Most recently, and this pretty much brings us up to date, I fitted some wing mirrors that look better in person than in photographs and are the best mirrors I've used on any car new or old. I also changed the brown on the C pillars for satin black and that purple wing got a quick beige blowover to smarten things up.
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Now... you're up to speed on the daily so I can regale you with the story of the new one I've acquired.

vulgalour
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Re: Austin Morris Princess X2

#3 Post by vulgalour » Tue Sep 24, 2013 12:56 am

Phew, this is quite the update! I hadn't realised just how much I post about maintenance and living with my cars on the other forums until trying to condense it here. Now, when it came to this Princess I had no plans to obtain a second one. In actual fact, as I've mentioned elsewhere, I was after either a frugal mid-80s buzzbox or a mid-90s hearse to move house with and sell on after the move (or keep, because I'd really like a hearse one day). But when a complete car appears on the radar for free in a colour combination you like and a model that you find highly desirable it's impossible to say no.

1981 2ltr HLS spec. This is the last of the Princesses before the short-lived Ambassador came out to replace the model. They're usually the best cars of the Princess range because all of the usual problems have been ironed out. The 2ltr engine is better suited for motorway slogging as it's a little quieter at motorway speeds (I'm told) and the power assisted steering will definitely make parking easier than it is in the other Princess I have which can be a bit of a battle to park, especially when I visit friends in Sheffield.

What was on offer was a car described as having spent 10 years in a garage in Swansea before being bought by the current owner who transported the car to his home in Plymouth, unseized the engine and left it in a garage to sort out one day... which became another 2 years of storage. What I received was a car that, in pictures, looked dog rough and was probably only fit for spares but I did have a bit of insider knowledge on just how good these cars can be and how little can go wrong thanks to having to work through all the issues on my HL.

On the strength of a few photographs I agreed to take the car on, for free which is something I'm still trying to get over, and arranged collection via Shiply. The car arrived safe and sound a week or two later making my wallet a fair bit lighter given the fact I had the car transported 280 miles. I don't count the transport cost in the price of getting the car, I'd've had to spend nearly that to drive the car back had it been on the road what with public transport to get down there and everything... so there we go, a completely free car.
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12 years of storage dirt and an interior that had been used as a kennel. The brakes work... just. The clutch is seized on. Some of the lights work. The engine doesn't start and the suspension has sunk. It drew a bit of a neighbourhood crowd and while I saw nothing to condemn the car outright beyond a bad driver's door and an unknown engine, the chorus of 'scrap it' and 'break it' was growing louder and I was beginning to get annoyed so we wheeled it onto the drive so I could get to work.
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The first thing my brother wanted to do was get the engine running. The first thing I wanted to do was to check the body was solid enough to warrant doing that first... our priorities differ. I had a really good look around and found the floors and boot floor were absolutely pristine with the engine bay not far behind. The paint has suffered, most likely from storage conditions, but can be salvaged. The doors are in a similar condition to my HL with the exception of the driver's door and the sills look tidy but may need some localised patches once I make a start cleaning them up. Happy with how solid overall the car was I stopped my ears to the incredulity of people telling me I was bonkers to want to put this back on the road and got the vacuum cleaner out.
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Lovely. This is just from the cabin.
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Lots of detritus inside the car. The chap I got the car from tells me everything in the car is untouched and as he received it. It's probably also as it was left in 96/7 when it was laid up. Treasure? Perhaps.
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Going to get the dealer sticker remade.
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The following day, with the engine still not playing ball and fault chasing underway I decided to leave that alone to get the car cleaned and with a coat of polish. Originally, the car was going to be put in a garage out of the elements, but since it now has a car with no roof being stored in it, the HLS was relegated to the drive so getting some waterproofing on was important to me to at least slow the decay. Surprisingly, the car cleaned up quite well all things considered.
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Especially the bonnet.
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Lovely surprise hiding behind the driver's sun visor. Just as well I'd already planned to replace the headlining on account of its condition.
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But look how well the door cards have come up with a quick clean! I've yet to do the deep clean on these and they already look respectable.
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The last service was 10,000 miles and 16 years ago.
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After cleaning out the carb and rigging up a temporary fuel feed, we borrowed the battery and one spark plug from my HL and fitted the old spark leads I'd kept from the HL just-in-case as the old Champion leads on the HLS were dead. Still not firing, but trying hard. We then took the points from the HL and fitted those to the HLS, gapped them and managed to get the car to try harder to fire. We were stopped by a seized alternator but Dad showed us where to apply a large spanner and with a couple of attempts we freed off the alternator and then this happened.

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After 12 years of inactivity, with the choke on full and the exhaust blowing like a good un, we managed to get the car to fire up. We also very quickly discovered from the oil out one end and the steam out the other that the car had most likely been laid up due to a blown head gasket.

So now I have a solid, late Princess in a desirable colour combination that's worn around the edges with an engine that runs. My intention is to get this back on the road by the end of the year because really, there's not much to do to see the car roadworthy. Yes she looks rough around the edges and the interior has seen better days but I imagine after 145,000 miles the same could be said of most cars. I have a certain fondness for a car that wears its age, I don't like to see wear and tear completely eliminated in the pursuit of factory perfection in every instance. This is a car that's survived and probably has all sorts of stories it could tell about the family its lugged around over the years.

For now, I'm plodding along with the deep clean of the seats and repairing what I can on my tiny budget. Finding the fabric to properly match this interior is going to be very difficult, so instead I'll repair the dog damage with my sewing kit until I find what I'm after, then I'll get my sewing machine out and retrim as I've done in the past. This is the driver's seat, quite a large tear down the arm rest trim.
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Looks far tidier once stitched up again, if not perfect.
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After the first shampoo, the driver's seat is looking remarkably improved over the rest of the interior. I'm using a solution of water and Stardrops in a squirty bottle which is gently worked into the fabric with a cheap nailbrush and then blotted off with a clean damp flannel. This helps prevent damage to the fabric, costs next to nothing apart from the time investment and leaves the surfaces feeling and smelling clean and fresh again.
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This massive tear in the rear seat was previously repaired with black gaffer tape. Once carefully removed I could stitch the fabric back together so I wouldn't damage it further when cleaning.
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On the left is the first shampoo of the rear seat. The left hand side has only been vacuumed. I'll shampoo the right hand side again to get the last few marks out and when I'm done it'll look much improved.
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So that's you up to date on these two amazing machines. I'm always looking for good, affordable solutions to restoration work and while I'd love to throw a lot of money at my cars I simply can't. I keep on top of the little jobs to prevent them becoming big jobs and do as much of the restoration, conservation and maintenance as I can myself. It's surprise how easily you pick up a wide variety of skills and how fast a once-daunting task becomes rather mundane.

Topaz
Posts: 246
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Location: Derby

Re: Austin Morris Princess X2

#4 Post by Topaz » Tue Sep 24, 2013 6:11 am

Great work and thanks for sharing that with us.

I started out reading this while waiting for the kettle to boil and now find that I got so interested in you and your cars that I'm going to be late for work :D

Mike

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UKJeeper
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Re: Austin Morris Princess X2

#5 Post by UKJeeper » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:56 am

Topaz wrote:Great work and thanks for sharing that with us.

I started out reading this while waiting for the kettle to boil and now find that I got so interested in you and your cars that I'm going to be late for work :D

Mike
I have a solution that works for me. Read it when you're at work! (at least you'll be on time :lol: )

mach1rob
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Re: Austin Morris Princess X2

#6 Post by mach1rob » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:10 am

I had been reading your thread on RR, but nice to see the HLS. I feel your pain about the comments of 'scrap it' as been there too! :D

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Good luck with it, hoping it's not too long before it's wafting back down the roads again.

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JPB
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Re: Austin Morris Princess X2

#7 Post by JPB » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:45 am

This is great stuff but your needlework is suspiciously good. ;)

For anyone who owns and uses Hydrasag cars the next logical modification has to be this:
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Once the diaphragms in Hydrasag bottles have started to go porous, every time the fluid level is pumped up on the dalek the diaphragm stretches into the Nitrogen chamber a little further until eventually the elastic limit of the rubber is exceeded fatally and the displacer fails completely. Once that point comes (it will, especially in "new" old stock bottles), there's no way to repair the units but, by adding Schrader valves to the gas chambers while the suspension is still good and soft, then any gas that escapes through those porous diaphragms can be topped up at a garage airline and with the diaphragm biased properly - just like the expansion vessel in a typical combi boiler - then the trim height can safely be set with the dalek and some fresh glycol mix.

Once that's done, you'll have the same ride quality as the earlier Hydrolastic system would have provided on cars that came with that system, but with the greater composure and far less bouncy damping that makes good Hydrasag bottles work so well.
The one in my photo has the valve brazed to its thread but in practice, the thread alone is more than ample as a means of keeping the valve in place and that removes the slight risk of the heat from the gas torch melting the foam edge of the diaphragm.

I've driven the same ADO71 both before and after its displacers had been upgraded in that way and with a little extra air in the front pair, the standard amount in the rears and the fluid pressure set correctly with the dalek, that car could accommodate speed bumps every bit as well as the best of the oliopneumatic (sp?) Citroens. Like most BL products of their time, ADO71s suffered a lack of development in their day but now, with the displacer mod, decent electronic ignition (Britpart) and that all-important PAS from a version that came with it fitted, they're a truly great old motor, especially with the 2 litre O series as it's happy to burn unleaded with no additive and is pretty efficient.
I'll be watching your thread with interest, partly because I loved my Princess - a late and spectacularly unreliable B series example that used oil and fuel in roughly equal quantities - and that car put up with all kinds of abuse once the suspension had been sorted with a means of setting the air pressure. Mine was Tahiti Blue with Chestnut trim. AVG99T was that car's reg, the story of how its identity ended up attached to a Datsun Sunny is far too dull to go into any time soon, especially not in another chap's thread.... :oops:
John, If it's old & badly broken, chances are I've owned it. :|

rich.
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Re: Austin Morris Princess X2

#8 Post by rich. » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:38 pm

how many of those are left? good luck!!

vulgalour
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Re: Austin Morris Princess X2

#9 Post by vulgalour » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:33 pm

Thank you for the warm welcome :) "Hydrasag" is my new favourite word, and I'd seen the tutorial for modifying the units but had lost it, so it's super handy to have that in here should I need it at some point.

How many left? If only there were some sort of website... There's about 400-500 Princess wedges left as far as I can work out, the two I have are two of the rarest. I was informed recently at Woolley Edge services by a man in a modern VolksSkodaWagen that there's only 3 1.7 HLs left on the road which is plausible but not perhaps 100% accurate given the somewhat scatalogical approach BL dealers took to registering cars.

Today I popped the front indicator/sidelight units off the HLS, cleaned them and refreshed the bulbs. Also refreshed the blown bulbs in the rear light clusters and stole the interior protector covers for the HL so the various stuff I keep in my boot can't bash the delicate chrome on the light units. HL is being a bit grumpy of late, she's never fond of regular shopping trips so I'll stretch her legs on the M1 when I next get chance to clear the tubes out a bit.

mach1rob
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Re: Austin Morris Princess X2

#10 Post by mach1rob » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:06 pm

vulgalour wrote:
How many left? If only there were some sort of website... There's about 400-500 Princess wedges left as far as I can work out,
I'm assuming you know of www.leylandprincess.co.uk ? Also on facebook, and Kev posted this the other day
According to these figures there aren't many Wedges about now...

Austin Morris Princess - 23 licensed, 63 sorned. 86 total
Austin Ambassador - 24 licensed, 44 sorned. 68 total.

Of course some Wedges were registered as just an Austin or Morris so this can only be judged as a very rough guide.
We all know how unreliable HML is, but I think 400 is a tad optimistic sadly :(

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