Col­umn inches

Classics Monthly - - Driver's Diary -

It’s fair to say I’ve made the job of put­ting the Low­light back to­gether con­sid­er­ably more tricky and time­con­sum­ing by mod­i­fy­ing the car.

The point is of­ten made that put­ting a big­ger en­gine in cre­ates a whole mag­ni­tude of other jobs.

I put my stock con­vert­ible back onto the road from prac­ti­cally a bare shell in a cou­ple of weeks, but the Low­light in com­par­i­son is near­ing the year mark, par­tially be­cause I’m do­ing it to a higher stan­dard but pre­dom­i­nantly be­cause of the time-con­sum­ing process of mak­ing up cus­tom parts.

This month is no ex­cep­tion, as I em­barked on re­fit­ting the steer­ing col­umn and wheel. If I was do­ing it the stan­dard way this would have been a sim­ple task of strip­ping, clean­ing and re­paint­ing the col­umn and mounts.

How­ever, as I plan to use the car as a daily it wasn’t that sim­ple.

The stan­dard traf­fi­ca­tors are op­er­ated by a switch lo­cated by the driver’s right knee, a rather in­con­ve­nient po­si­tion. I wanted to fit the col­umn-mounted switch from a later Mor­ris. Sounds easy? It wasn’t.

The car came with a crude home made outer sleeve for the top sec­tion of the col­umn and it would have been pos­si­ble to fit the in­di­ca­tor switch to this, but given I would be look­ing at this al­most con­stantly, I was sure that this rather ugly setup would frus­trate me.

I needed a more elegant so­lu­tion. Early and late col­umns aren’t in­ter­change­able as they are dif­fer­ent lengths and di­am­e­ters, mount with a dif­fer­ent bracket be­low the dash­board and the method of at­tach­ing the steer­ing wheel is not the same ei­ther, so it wasn’t pos­si­ble to use a later one.

The in­di­ca­tor switch needs to

be mounted in a se­cure man­ner, whilst also al­low­ing the in­ner sec­tion to turn freely.

I worked out that the sim­plest op­tion was to cut a sec­tion from the outer later steer­ing col­umn, which the in­di­ca­tor switch at­taches to, and de­vise some sort of method of at­tach­ing this to the ear­lier dash bracket and the col­umn.

The so­lu­tion was to mod­ify the brass bear­ing which sits in­side the rub­ber bush in the col­umn mount be­low the dash.

I called upon Dad’s skills with the lathe and he knocked up a bush—us­ing a nice piece of brass in­her­ited from my great grandad!—which was the same as the orig­i­nal bear­ing with an ex­tra piece with a step out­wards to go over the ex­ter­nal di­am­e­ter of the outer col­umn. After check­ing this all fit­ted, I sol­dered the outer col­umn in place. This was all then cleaned and sprayed brown ready to fit. The very early cars have the col­umn and wheel cen­tre painted brown to match the Bake­lite horn push and I also painted the switch cover this colour. Get­ting the cor­rect shade was quite a search; the Mo­torist Cen­ter in New Mil­ton help­fully tracked this down for me.

In re­al­ity few will no­tice the dif­fer­ence be­tween this and a stan­dard late or an early col­umn, but this shows the amount of time and work that has gone into mak­ing just one lit­tle piece. I am very pleased with the re­sult, so it was worth the ef­fort.

In com­par­i­son, I also fit­ted up the rear bumper. Un­like later cars this mounts via two folded metal brack­ets which fit be­tween the wing/flange join.

Be­cause of this, and the fact that the bumper valances are two pieces, the whole af­fair took a lot of tight­en­ing, loos­en­ing and jig­gling to fit.

Nev­er­the­less this took just an hour com­pared to the sev­eral evenings’ work to sort the in­di­ca­tor switch. The next car I’m restor­ing will be stan­dard that’s for sure...

I wanted to fit the col­umn-mounted switch from a later Mor­ris. Sounds easy? It wasn’t

The orig­i­nal and some­what crude steer­ing col­umn sleeve.

Turn­ing up a re­place­ment bush from a piece of brass was a sim­ple af­fair in Dad’s lathe.

The bush was sol­dered onto the outer sleeve taken from a later Mor­ris 1000.

The bush was fab­ri­cated from brass.

The fin­ished and much less in­tru­sive ar­ti­cle. It would take a keen eye to spot that this wasn’t stan­dard.

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