January 2009 - December 2010

Jan 09 has seen a new jubilee clip fitted to Bess's top hose to cure a mysterious coolant leak that was eventually traced to the same said hose clip. A new set of leads seems to have cured Bess's recent spate of very poor starting and her tendency to miss a beat in the cold or damp weather - at speed, this used to cause a pretty major jolt to the car, so I regret not doing this much, much earlier. Other than that all seems to fine.

Feb 2009 saw Bess develop the habit of boiling over on long journeys which a bloke in a layby who, on spotting a pool of coolant forming under my car, attritubed to 'Your 'ead gasket, mate'. On impulse I immediately drove her back to the trusty localsouth London garage whose proprietor declared likewise, qualified by 'Bin it'. On asserting that I would really like the job done he replied something like... 'You're lookin' at a farsan pan'. Anyhow he agreed to do the work and took the car in a few days later. However, he then managed to convince himself that it was only the thermostat playing up and returned the car with a replacement for the same said item.

Thus Bess was returned to everyday use and all seemed well for a couple of weeks until March 09 when the boiling over began again, strangely in exactly the same layby as before. This time I continued the journey and just kept topping up the coolant with water whenever possible and all was OK.

The garage then took Bess in again for the full 'farsan pan' head gasket and seemingly replaced most of everything else under the bonnet including cam belt and tensioners. Given that the job cost less than ten times the cost of replacing the thermostat, I am delighted with result... but at the same time a tad upstaged in the sure knowledge that I couldn't have done it all myself.... and certainly not with the current pressures of seemingly spending all my spare time typing frantically.

Needless to say Blue Bess, now resplendent with gleaming cylinder head, has returned to providing impeccably reliable transport and I hope that at some stage in a few months from now (Aug 09), I will be able to do some proper maintenance on her... but when my mind is more on the likes of Bluetooth than on Blue Bess, it could be some time yet.

September 09 saw Bess's driver door electric window motor pack up but a replacement part with a similar part number (shown below along with the original) was procured from the internet and was fitted to the old 'gearbox' to good effect.

October 09 was MOT time for Bess and unfortunately she failed due to excessive rust where the floor panel joins the offside sill at the front. Again the poor garage man tried persuading me to dispose of the same said car due to the welding repairs being 'anarva farsan pan'. However, he was eventually persuaded to do the work and Bess was returned to impeccably reliable transport for the rest of the year and into early spring 2010 when I am finally graced with more time on my hands.

March 2010 and Bess has had an oil change, air filter change, replacement to the air-intake ducting, gearbox oil level check, diff oil level top-up and a spring clean which is in an advanced state of progress.

Spring and early Summer 2010 have seen Bess's continued use as everyday transport, much to the delight of bluebells (well, forget-me-nots, actually) and the canine fraternity, as shown below. The only minor problems have been the tendency of the speedometer to read about three times the correct speed on hot days, a front mudflap falling off (which was eventually fixed) and a slight smell of petrol on switching the engine off.

Late June saw Bess suddenly develop a poor-running problem that required the use of full-choke to keep her running. Hence she was quickly put away in the garage and swapped for the trusty 340. However, the return journey home proved interesting since the starter motor on the same said 340 decided to lock-on and spun itself to destruction over 10 to 15 frantic minutes, in spite of my turning-off the ignition and removing the key. Having just swapped the cars, I had no tools with me so could not even remove the battery terminal to stop the starter motor on its increasingly hot and smokey course to anihilation which, thankfully, was uneventful, apart from a burn to my wrist. The only significant embarassement was that this was happening at the main entrance to Surbiton hospital and, as a passing ambulance man pointed out 'If you leave it here mate, you'll be clamped'. Nevertheless, the AA man arrived promptly and towed the same said car to the local garage who did a sane-day repair.

Bess's carburettor was subsequently dismantled and eventually the problem was traced to the screws at the top which had shaken loose and allowed air and/or petrol to leak, leaving a tell-tale glisten on the gasket - presumably the smell of petrol was due to this. Upon re-tightening the screws, a test showed that all was well with the engine again. Anyhow, the car, now firmly garage-bound, was subjected to a respray of the offside sill which had been left as bare underseal following the 'farsan pan' welding repairs to that side of the car. The new paint almost matches the old colour.

Repairs to the speedo are complete - the problem seemed to be grease creeping up the speedo cable from the hub.

Efforts to replace the dodgy track rod have led to a refurbished rack being aquired as a donor for the otherwise unobtainable tie rod. However, on removing the old track rod, subsequent removal of the bellows on the new one revealed that it did not have a ball joint that could be tightened with a spanner. Not being a fan of mole-grips or water-pump spanners, and certainly not prepared to trust my life to them, I decided to replace the whole rack. After a dizzying 2-3 hours undoing nuts and bolts in almost every possible contortion (wobble-bars are compulsory for this), removal of the old rack is almost complete as of the end of July 10.

Early-to-mid August have seen the old rack removed and the new one bolted in position. Replacement of the whole rack proved to be a good plan since it turned out that I had been trying to replace the wrong tie-rod, i.e. the sawn-off one was tight at the ball-joint whereas the genuine volvo one was distinctly loose. Just get on with replacing that rack.

Its mid-August and the new rack is pretty-much connected up with the wheels (bar the alignment), the steering wheel pinion clamped in its rightful place, heat-shields in position, the power-steering hoses re-connected, hopefully the right way round, and the system re-filled with ATF and bled.

Bess's steering rack now fully back in place and the front wheels re-aligned has led to her being used intensively again as routine transport throughout the autumn of 2010 with no major worries (see above). There even seems to be very slightly less steering wheel wobble at the legal limit and....

Christmas 2010 has seen Bess's new doors given some anti-rust treatment by the sacrificial use of several stiff Dremmel wire brushes interspersed with liberal coatings of naval jelly that is left overnight to nibble away at the tin worm. After several iterations of the same said process the metal is very nearly rust-free but, as expected, very pitted. Needless to say a coat of zinc primer followed by judicious use of a spray can of 'Citroen fijian blue' has given results which I hope will not show too much when the doors are finally fitted to the car.

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