Austin Cam­bridges aren’t com­pli­cated are they? Well, ac­tu­ally…

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics - JOHN LAKEY CON­TRIB­U­TOR THANKS TO Andy Frost, Penn Au­tos Trans­mis­sion. 01902 344004, www. red­vic­tor1rac­

‘Af­ter I put my hand through the bulk­head, I had to de­cide what to do’ OWNED SINCE May 1984 MILEAGE SINCE LAST RE­PORT 0 TO­TAL MILEAGE 500,000 LAT­EST COSTS £750

You know that old joke ‘If you’d wanted to get there, you’d have been best not start­ing from here’? Well, I’ve been liv­ing it, al­though my Austin Cam­bridge hasn’t ac­tu­ally moved an inch.

When I put my hand though the bulk­head I had to de­cide what to do. Af­ter 34 years of own­er­ship, I had to get Eleanor re­vived so I sent it to BMC spe­cial­ist Steve Turner for ex­pert at­ten­tion, which ini­tially went well.

How­ever, a chat with Steve con­firmed my fears – to fix the rather odd (and, to be hon­est, un­ex­plained) large rust hole in the bulk­head, the engine and gear­box had to come out. Steve then fol­lowed up with ‘ Well you may as well re­fresh the engine as you know it rat­tles on start-up don’t you?’ To be hon­est I didn’t, but I’ve known Steve al­most as long as I’ve known Eleanor so I be­lieved him. About £1100 is the go­ing rate for an engine re­build with un­leaded head, which is fair enough. But I like to get bangs for my bucks and af­ter spend­ing that money I’d still end up with the same, very slow car...

So Eleanor is be­ing up­rated. An in­ter­net search lo­cated a re­built MGB engine bot­tom end and I have an MGB over­drive gear­box in my garage. We’ll come to cylin­der heads later once I’ve found one, but as Steve had to deal with rear end rust, the first pri­or­ity was a plan of ac­tion for the back axle. Moss has just an­nounced a 3.7 crown-wheel and pin­ion for MGA and early MGB ‘ banjo axles’ which should fit an A60 axle, so I or­dered one as it’s no good fit­ting a more pow­er­ful engine if the car is un­der-geared.

I then at­tacked my spare A60 axle (what, you mean you don’t have one? I thought ev­ery­one did…) to re­move the ‘pineap­ple’ and took the whole lot to lo­cal trans­mis­sion spe­cial­ist Andy Frost to get it prop­erly built.

You may have heard of Andy. He’s even been on the telly, be­cause, as well as run­ning a great car-build­ing work­shop, Penn Au­tos, (which spe­cialises in engine trans­plants and gear­box and axle re­builds) he is the man be­hind Red Vic­tor 3, all 4000bhp of it. No, that’s not a mis­print; Red Vic­tor 3 is Europe’s fastest street le­gal car (and hope­fully if things go to plan, soon to be the world’s fastest street le­gal car). Its V8 has two tur­bos that are big­ger than most en­gines. That means a stand­ing quar­ter-mile in 6.2 sec­onds, with a ter­mi­nal speed of 236mph. Plus he’s a top bloke and I al­ways en­joy talk­ing to him. I rea­soned that if he could de­sign and build a ma­chine like that, he should be able to set-up the back­lash on my ( hope­fully) 110bhp Cam­bridge’s diff ’. I was glad I’d taken it to Andy – the crown­wheel and pin­ion fit­ted as pre­dicted, but the larger gears were too big for the case. I hadn’t thought of that one. As you’d ex­pect from a drag rac­ing en­gi­neer, though Andy is un­daunted by such prob­lems and has a ma­chine shop. Thus he was able to care­fully ma­chine out the case to clear the larger gears, but re­tain its in­tegrity.

The re­sult is a 3.7:1 dif­fer­en­tial which fits in the A60 axle (usu­ally 4.3:1) with­out do­ing any struc­tural mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the ve­hi­cle it­self. This should match the MGB engine and over­drive gear­box well enough, al­though out of cu­rios­ity we are go­ing to try driv­ing my car with the new diff’ and the stan­dard 1622cc lump, just to see if it will pull the taller gear­ing be­fore the engine comes out to tackle the front end cor­ro­sion.

I’ve started with a rusty Austin, so the jour­ney to­wards a mildly resto-modded, and thus much more us­able car, may take a while. But I’m hope­fully trav­el­ling – and that’s some­times bet­ter than ar­riv­ing.

Andy Frost us­ing a dial in­di­ca­tor on John’s re­built 3.7:1 A60 dif­fer­en­tial. His cur­rent drag racer, Red Vic­tor 3, can be seen on the ramp be­hind.

The se­ri­ous bulk­head rust which trig­gered the sec­ond restora­tion.

back in 1997. Eleanor af­ter her last restora­tion,

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