Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

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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Zelandeth
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#341 Post by Zelandeth » Wed Jul 24, 2019 11:18 pm

So it's been officially too hot to do much here this last couple of days. It was 32C in our lounge at one point today.

I used to love the hot weather in years gone by until I was put on medication which basically turned the acceptable temperature envelope for me down by about 20C. It's a royal pain in the tail in the summer I tell you that. Anything beyond about 25C ambient and I progressively just start to stop functioning.

Think Star has had the right idea, she's spent most of the day as a fluffy little pancake in front of the AC.

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The high temperature though has well suited one job: paintwork.

I've made a decision regarding paint. I'm sticking with the light blue Ford colour I've been using (Bermuda Light Blue if you wondered). I just personally prefer it...I realise that the greener shade is probably closer to how it left the factory but I'm not so keen on it and the paint I've had just hasn't gone on well. The Ford colour I can get relatively inexpensively in cellulose (not enamel which I'd got in my head from somewhere), which should spray nicely with the equipment I've got here.

My plan here is to get the car painted all one colour and with a half reasonable shine on it, then I'm going to step back and try to leave the bodywork alone for the most part and just concentrate on using, enjoying and functionally improving the car for a bit. Next year I'll maybe look to get it into a body shop to be properly stripped back to bare fibreglass and to have a couple of my repairs tidied up by someone who actually knows what they're doing.

My trip over to the Festival of the Unexceptional was quite a revealing experience for me, being the first properly real drive in the car rather than just trundling around town. That showed me how well she actually drives...even with a drive belt in need of adjustment, a thoroughly bodged throttle cable and more rattles than you can shake a stick at. Oh, and a carb which periodically still plays up for a few seconds now and then.

I'm really looking forward to getting some proper miles covered and un-bodging some of my bodges. 

For now though I figured that taking advantage of the warm weather to get a few bits painted made sense. Figured I still had about enough paint in stock to get the engine cover done before I go to get my next stock of paint in next week.

The engine cover aside from a bit of pitting in a few places wasn't all that bad and I figured would look all right with fresh paint on. 

Didn't come out half bad actually.

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Annoyingly I did get one run when my concentration wandered at one point. Luckily it will be covered by the number plate, so I'm not too worried about it.

The lock is also totally seized so will need to be changed which is why I didn't bother masking it off. 

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I quite like the fact that some of the surface fractures are still visible through the paint as I think it suits the honesty of the appearance of the car.

Given the weather forecast for tomorrow I can't see me leaving the house to be honest!
My website - aka. My *other* waste of time
Current fleet: 73 AC Model 70. 85 Sinclair C5. 90 Mercedes 208D AutoTrail Navajo. 93 Lada Riva 1.5i Estate. 96 Citroen Xantia Activa.

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Zelandeth
Posts: 378
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#342 Post by Zelandeth » Fri Jul 26, 2019 10:34 am

Really quick update to dump most of the photos taken during (and at a gathering after) the Festival of the Unexceptional a few days back... I've not seen these on an actual computer display yet, so apologies if any editing is still required.

These are in no particular order and probably covers about ten percent of which cars were there...there must have been at least a few hundred motors in attendance.

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My website - aka. My *other* waste of time
Current fleet: 73 AC Model 70. 85 Sinclair C5. 90 Mercedes 208D AutoTrail Navajo. 93 Lada Riva 1.5i Estate. 96 Citroen Xantia Activa.

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JPB
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#343 Post by JPB » Fri Jul 26, 2019 4:22 pm

Wow! That's a mightily impressive turnout. One thing I have to disagree with, regarding the naming of the event, is that very few of these cars were actually "unexceptional" and had I turned up at an event expecting to see a field full of the sort of chod rescued from hedges and other flytipping venues by Autoshite forum users, only to be met with the sheer beauty of pretty much everything in the lovely photos, I'd be having words with the organiser of the event and forcing them to accept some extra payment for admission, on the basis that I'd hoped for unexceptional stuff but had in fact found stunners such as the Trabant Kombi, the very early Discovery, the BX with the Heuer labels on its flanks and backside, the preserved non-Cooper minis, the DS, the HiAce with the coachbuilt accommodation ( :drool: :drool: :drool: :drool: :drool: ), the Variomatic Volvo 340, the 1st gen Fiesta, etc..

It was also refreshing to see such healthy numbers of the tiny 3 wheeled oddities like your own, given how few survive and - compared to quantities of much more common machinery - the percentage of that surviving number, I sincerely hope that you brave souls in these vehicles were recognised in some official way for the achievement.
You're definitely turning a corner with the body on your Model 70 now, it will very soon be among the best of these remaining rarities at the current rate of improvement, much as I like the way it still appeared somewhat patchy on the day.
:thumbs:
JB I didn't go looking for the current fleet, they just sort of followed me home and now they won't leave without an extradition order from the Japanese government..
:|

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Zelandeth
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#344 Post by Zelandeth » Fri Jul 26, 2019 7:10 pm

TPA might still look patchy, but she's driving far better than she's any right to now. Took her out for a run this afternoon and think surprised everyone we saw in that she's more than happy to deal with rush hour modern traffic. Takes her a bit of time to wind up between 30 and 50, but once she's up there she's more than happy to maintain the legal limit. Handles far better than a tiny tripod has any right to too.

It's hard to say precisely, but we reckon that there are somewhere around 70 AC/Invacar Model 70s surviving, the vast majority in museums. General consensus seems to be about a dozen complete cars in private hands, though that number does seem to be going up year on year now. I now know where five of them are! Last year there was one present at this show (the car mine was used as a parts source to restore), this year mine was there...next year we're hoping to have at least three of them there.

I think my car of the day had to be the old Ford Country Squire (which is essentially a rebadged LTD it turns out... should have spotted that myself given one of my neighbours had an Aussie LTD import back when I was about five).

I've realised that I've recently started to look at cars like that more seriously... especially now we've got the two dogs so a ridiculously large boot would be a definite plus. Granted I've no idea what something like that changes hands for these days... probably well more than I can afford to be honest...one of the reasons I've tried not to look too closely.

There are a lot of options out there, but that's the sort of thing I'd like...big, lazy, comfy barge with the ability to compress any ten hour drive seemingly into half an hour.

I've yet to own anything with more than four cylinders, and at 2.3 litres the van has the largest engine of anything I've yet owned (if not the most powerful, the Xantia currently holds that honour I believe)... it's about time I got hold of something with a big lazy V8...before they're legislated totally out of existence if nothing else.

... I'd not say no to an early BX, CX, XM or GSA either mind you...the black one being an S2 car normally would have been passed by, but I'll include that on my wish list just because....well... C'mon, look at it!
My website - aka. My *other* waste of time
Current fleet: 73 AC Model 70. 85 Sinclair C5. 90 Mercedes 208D AutoTrail Navajo. 93 Lada Riva 1.5i Estate. 96 Citroen Xantia Activa.

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JPB
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#345 Post by JPB » Fri Jul 26, 2019 9:05 pm

So these tiny tricycles are actually multiplying in survivor number? An impressive achievement that speaks volumes for the level of enthusiasm among their restorers and those who, like yourself, have found that a single front wheel can work and that such a layout isn't a disaster waiting to happen. Especially if driven correctly, a concept lost on buyers of things that won't fall over if you forget to use the throttle at the right moment during spirited driving. Bring back motorcycle & sidecar combinations I say!

If only the cars catered for by the Reliant Kitten Register were being unearthed, saved and given a new lease of life in such quantities compared to their survivor numbers, but maybe the Rebel, Fox, Kitten and all variations thereof are still not being appreciated for their many virtues, even though a good one of any of these is even more relevant in this day and age of ever more efficient transportation devices, a point that applies at the very least equally to the AC, which in today's crowded towns flies bravely in the face of the fact that most journeys are made in cars capable of carrying as many as eight passengers by solo occupants. One person, a few shopping bags and maybe the most basic of tool kits are surely all that most folk need to fit into their car?

I still have the urge to grab such a car for myself should the opportunity arise, I just need to stop accumulating weird imported Toyotas before dragging any more automotive waifs & strays home.

Now, where did I put that self help book about learning to use the word "no"? :oops:
JB I didn't go looking for the current fleet, they just sort of followed me home and now they won't leave without an extradition order from the Japanese government..
:|

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Zelandeth
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#346 Post by Zelandeth » Fri Jul 26, 2019 11:06 pm

It's a real shame I think that AC didn't clad the Model 70 in a modern looking body when it was launched rather than essentially just rehashing the Invacar Model 67 skin and adding some flared wheel arches. It makes it look like a car designed in the early 50s rather than what was actually a pretty modern well engineered design at its launch in 71. The rear engined layout makes way more sense in a three wheeler I think (especially with a flat twin/boxer engine like this) as it keeps the bulk of the weight in the most stable part of the car. I've driven a Rialto for quite a few miles - and would by lying if I didn't say I'd love to own one as they're such charismatic little cars - and I can honestly say that you're *way* more aware of the missing wheel up front in that than you are in the AC. It initially feels a little alarming when you chuck it into a roundabout or something as it does roll quite a bit initially as it's quite softly sprung - up to a very specific point, but once the suspension has loaded up a bit it doesn't really go any further. It takes a bit of time, but you get used to that sort of balance dead zone (best description is that it's kinda like the suspension equivalent of the free play in a car with an old school steering box).

I'm really hoping that getting this thing out and about and exposing more people to it will help dispell some of the myths that float around them.

I think the reason they're starting to come out of the woodwork now is that the restoration of TWC (the car mine was the parts donor for) has helped raise awareness of the fact that they can actually be driven.

Prior to that the general belief was that they were illegal to own and couldn't be driven...the illigal thing is a complete urban myth as far as we can see anyway...the word from the government was that their use was "banned" but as far as we can see, nothing ever actually got signed into law which legally prohibited their use on the public highway. It was a bit of a moot point anyway as the cars were only ever leased to the people who used them, so they were simply recalled when the lease was terminated. Still think it must have been a sad day really...when the scheme was finally terminated at the end of the 2002/03 financial year there were around 200 vehicles still out on lease...and it's fair to say that by this point there were only going to be two types of user. Those who were sufficiently impaired that it wasn't possible to reasonably adapt a normal car to their needs (the almost infinite flexibility of the Model 70 was one of its greatest features), or those who still had theirs because they loved the little blue tripod. One day they were still happily bowling along making their owners happy, then the day after were without ceremony rounded up with orders issued for their immediate and permanent destruction.

This is where the number of survivors was pretty much guaranteed though. Even though there were only a couple of hundred cars still in active service in 2003, there were still probably a couple of thousand parked up in yards all over the country, and the contracts were issued for destruction of the whole lot at once. In typical government fashion, this was sent out to tender so as to be done cheaply...and quite a lot of the scrap dealers who had taken on the contract to dispose of however many hundred cars suddenly realised that given the relatively small amount of steel in them and large amount of fibreglass, that they were going to cost them more to deal with than the metal was worth - especially back then when scrap metal prices were rock bottom.

It was because of this that a lot of the smaller scrap dealers instead of properly dealing with them instead wound up just parking them in a corner of the yard, a field or something like that. That's what happened with the field mine and TWC came from - there were a dozen or so cars there in various states of destruction.

The one thing which most that ended up at the mainstream scrappers did lose though was their engines - as the prototype Model 70 used a Fiat 500 engine (but Fiat refused to provide units for the production cars, hence the use of the Steyer-Puch 493cc unit) the Invacar engines were pretty easy to fit to Fiat 500s...and are far more powerful out the box than the Fiat ones, and are very tunable. 50-60bhp is entirely doable without significantly sacrificing reliability. It's a lovely little engine - which is actually quite modern for a small capacity air cooled engine from the early 70s. That's really clear if you look at the cylinder head design, the gas flow is way better than things like those used by VW. The 2CV engines get a pass from me because they were engineered more with being indestructible in mind rather than performance.

So there are quite a few of these cars sitting in fields, in the back of sheds etc which had generally been ignored because folks didn't think you could do anything with them, and all folks knew about them were all the urban myths of how terrible death traps they were...however now word is starting to get out that you can actually put them back on the road, they're starting to be saved. Once they're saved and folks start driving them, they're starting to discover how terrible they actually aren't and how different the Model 70 really is to the earlier versions - the Model 70 really is lightyears ahead of the earlier Villiers engined cars. The Villiers engine is a lovely thing...but it's not really up to propelling something this size around on a modern road. Those cars are usually good for 30-40mph tops, and being far, far cruder under the skin had far more erratic handling characteristics. Being one-wheel-drive probably didn't help either!

They're downright strange things to drive as the control scheme is so unusual, but it's astonishing how quickly it becomes natural. If you get the opportunity I definitely recommend getting a shot of one. I had a proper Cheshire cat grin on my face when I first took mine for the 500 yard loop round our residential block. If you do have a go though you'll probably end up looking for one though, you've been warned!

Now is the time though I think. It seems that the wider microcar community are starting to take an interest in them just a little (though equally some seem to have a rather elitist view that they're not real microcars), which tends to suggest that prices are only going to go one direction.

You can still get a decent project car for under a grand it seems if you keep your eyes open and ask the right people and wait patiently. Luckily so long as the bodywork isn't too far gone you're unlikely to need to do much beyond recommissioning work...they're so well (to be honest over) engineered that there's unlikely to be any particular pitfalls. The chassis is insanely well rust proofed, so rot is unlikely to be an issue - the only thing which does tend to rust out is the floorpan - but this is a simple totally flat sheet and isn't structural - it's just riveted to the chassis to keep your feet in and the weather out, so replacement isn't difficult. The one item where rust can be an issue is the fuel tank - the early cars had a lip around the top of the tank where water collects so the tank rusts out. New ones are basically unobtainable, so getting one made is going to be necessary if you've got a holed one - £250 will get you a nice shiny ally one.

Beyond the fuel tank, the body, some of the interior bits, the car is basically a few thousand bits out of a dozen British parts bins flying in close formation. Brakes are all Reliant, switchgear is Maxi, Speedo is a Smith's bike one, headlights are Mini, rear axle is Fiat 126, tail lights are Reliant Regal (latterly Minivan), drive is bought in from Salsbury (now Comet), engine is well supported by the maker still, suspension ball joints up front are all Mini track rod ends, shocks are adjustable Spax coilovers (yes, really!)... there's really nothing to scare anyone off. I've just finished digitising a full copy of the original workshop manual as well so all the information you should need is out there too. I need to make a point of getting that up on my website at some point shortly.

The only thing that is somewhat frustrating about it as a car to work on? That the folks building it seemed to be allergic to the concept of captive nuts...so it's not uncommon to wind up needing to borrow an extra pair of hands for what should be ten second jobs. The fact that there's a random mix of Whitworth, AF and metric fasteners is fun too.

Got you sold on one yet?

If you're ever in this neck of the woods feel free to let me know and I'm sure we can introduce you to TPA. I'd never even heard of an Invacar a couple of years ago...can't really imagine the garage without it in there now!

The other fibreglass car I've always wanted a shot of is the Kitten/Fox. The Robin/Rialto seems a decent enough little car, but always to me has felt that it was forced into being a three wheeler to meet the licensing rules, and that the Kitten and Fox were what it would should have been. Same lovely little engine, but a full compliment of wheels...and with such a low weight it seems like it should handle pretty nicely.

If I do wind up getting something ridiculously huge and American I'll have to get a photo of it next to the Invacar!

Edit: Nice little present arrived for the van this evening just as I was about to lock up.

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Should look the part better than the bargain bin plastic tat that's falling apart on the wheels just now. Look forward to getting those fitted.
My website - aka. My *other* waste of time
Current fleet: 73 AC Model 70. 85 Sinclair C5. 90 Mercedes 208D AutoTrail Navajo. 93 Lada Riva 1.5i Estate. 96 Citroen Xantia Activa.

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JPB
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#347 Post by JPB » Sat Jul 27, 2019 9:58 pm

Zelandeth wrote:
Fri Jul 26, 2019 11:06 pm
Got you sold on one yet?
:mrgreen:

Absolutely, in fact, it hasn't taken this many pages for me to know that I must rescue such a device. I should, all going to plan, be completing my purchase of a '90s HiAce camper in the next week or so, and will have to take that for a good long run once the van is all sorted. It's a 3 ltr TD model with 4 wheel drive and a hefty towbar, based on a Hilux chassis in fact, so I'm thinking that saving a weird blue tripod would be simple as all I'd need would be a monocular version of a spec lift and unless the three wheeler needed to be rescued from the bottom of the sea, I should be able to tow it out of any sort of terrain with ease.

Edit: 29/07/2019 at 12:08.. The camper turned out to be unfit for purpose, bank refunding my deposit.. :evil:

On the Kitten & Fox, it's a good plan to visit http://www.kitreg.org.uk/ and subscribing in order to have access to cars for sale among the membership. Many of the (admittedly limited quantity of) four wheeled Reliant "Economy Range" cars that change hands do so without appearing on eBay. I've owned eight kittens, three Rebels and as yet, no Foxes but have driven a few back when a clutch pedal was something I could cope with.
KIttens do handle well, especially the estate, whose rearward weight bias endows the car with a most entertaining tendency to grip like something to a blanket and then to oversteer very predictably and in a manner that brings a grin to the face of even the most mature of people.
Driving position in the kitten is similar to that of a Spridget, with the engine set well back in the car and the footwells being usefully long as they reach around half way along the engine, I've carried four adult passengers in kittens back in the day and in spite of the cars' similar dimensions, rear space is only slightly less generous than that found in a mini or "brake components, wheels and track rod end donor" as I like to think of Sir Alec's second most loved car.
:shock: :scared:
JB I didn't go looking for the current fleet, they just sort of followed me home and now they won't leave without an extradition order from the Japanese government..
:|

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Zelandeth
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#348 Post by Zelandeth » Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:30 pm

Not been much going on since the last report.

You may recall a few months ago I was having issues with the clutch master cylinder in the van failing to hold pressure - so the clutch would slowly re-engage even if you kept the pedal on the floor. This was initially resolved by thoroughly flushing it through with brake cleaner and fresh fluid, however it's now started doing it again so I've ordered a new one. Hopefully it will be here in the next couple of days then we can forget about the clutch hydraulics for a few years (the slave was changed at the end of last year).

Wanted to at least try to dodge replacing it as genuine cylinders aren't particularly cheap, but I'm not cheaping out given the no expense spared approach to maintenance by former keepers. Plus it looks nice in the history file if I do come to sell it at any point.

Will be nice to have that off the list of stuff I need to worry about causing trouble in the future.
My website - aka. My *other* waste of time
Current fleet: 73 AC Model 70. 85 Sinclair C5. 90 Mercedes 208D AutoTrail Navajo. 93 Lada Riva 1.5i Estate. 96 Citroen Xantia Activa.

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Zelandeth
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#349 Post by Zelandeth » Wed Jul 31, 2019 11:45 pm

Care package arrived for the van this morning.

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Thumbs up for Simply Car Parts...I only ordered this on Monday evening, so having it on my doorstep on Wednesday morning is pretty good going.

Here are the part numbers for those of you playing along at home.

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You may be wondering why I didn't just get it from Mercedes themselves...as I've tended to use them before because their parts supply has always been so seamless and not usually much more expensive than eBay etc. This has been one of the stand out things about owning a Mercedes...that the dealers actually want to help, and at least the reception I've had in our branch has had me believe that they don't care if you're in a car that's 29 days old or 29 years. I was staggered when I walked in a couple of weeks into ownership and they in moments had managed to track down several normal service items and even a replacement lens for the indicator light on the dashboard to replace the cracked one I had.

The last couple of times I've been in though we've had some issues. I have to make it abundantly clear though, not issues with the gent on the parts desk, he's a legend and has gone above and beyond to the call of duty to be helpful.

The issue is due to instructions from corporate somewhere within Mercedes-Benz that the dealers are not allowed to have anything to do with parts supply for anything other than passenger cars - totally irrespective of what it's registered as, it's actually down to the vehicle platform...so being based on the 601 platform I'm out of luck. Instead of being able to sell me the parts, they instead refer me to a nearby commercial vehicle specialist who apparently they partner with.

Slight issue there: said specialist doesn't deal with non-trade customers. Even before we realised that, they literally laughed in my face when I went in looking for parts for a 29 year old van. Apparently I'm far from the only person to have been less than impressed with them, even in the trade.

The last couple of trips the gent on the parts desk managed to cross reference things and trick the system into letting him order parts for other models of passenger car...however we struck out on this occasion, so I had to pick it up myself. Credit to the parts manager though, he still printed off all the part numbers for me.

He also believes it's an utterly daft situation. Sure if someone comes in looking for parts for a Tourismo or Actros (coach and artic lorry respectively), then send them on to the relevant specialist...but where it's a light van clearly registered as a motor caravan...C'mon folks, use some common sense. Especially as heritage vehicles like this running around can surely only be a good advertisement for the longevity of your products...and let's face it the Merc T1 van is something of a design icon. Or is that just in my head? I know if when I was a kid if you'd asked me to draw a van you'd have ended up with something that looked far more like a Merc T1 than a Transit...

Not going to let it spoil things though...doesn't mean I won't rant about it however! Just a shame as the excellent heritage parts support was one of the big plus sides of Mercedes ownership (and I don't doubt it still is if you own a passenger car).
My website - aka. My *other* waste of time
Current fleet: 73 AC Model 70. 85 Sinclair C5. 90 Mercedes 208D AutoTrail Navajo. 93 Lada Riva 1.5i Estate. 96 Citroen Xantia Activa.

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Zelandeth
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Re: Zel's Fleet Blog...Lada, Citroen, Mercedes, Sinclair & AC Model 70

#350 Post by Zelandeth » Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:05 pm

Nothing massive to report other that than with use TPA seems to just keep running better. Had her out this afternoon to run a few errands, rubbing shoulders with rush hour traffic. No bother. 

Have finally brought the PCV valves picked up last week inside for a clean up and fitting when I next get a chance. They're used examples but in a lot better state than the ones on the car currently.

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No idea whether I should expect this to make any difference to running, but it certainly can't hurt I figure.

Should rid me of a minor oil leak though - the seal on the lower one on the car is perished so the join "sweats" at the moment. The seal on this one is in good shape so this should put an end to that leak.
My website - aka. My *other* waste of time
Current fleet: 73 AC Model 70. 85 Sinclair C5. 90 Mercedes 208D AutoTrail Navajo. 93 Lada Riva 1.5i Estate. 96 Citroen Xantia Activa.

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