BIG SEVEN FITTED WITH JWF FIBREGLASS BODY
PURCHASE DECEMBER 1998
This particular car started as a
1938 Austin Big Seven, chassis number 7339. The only known history of the car,
is that it was built at the RAAF Amberley Air Base in the late 70's, early 80's.
The, then, owner of the car was transferred to the UK. He, in turn, sold the project to a
friend, Jeffery Graham, also working at the base.
It was not until December 1998
that Jeffery read my advertisement, "Wanted Austin Seven parts", in the Trading
Post that he contacted me. Initially I was not keen to extend myself outside my
"Austin comfort zone": that is Austin Sevens only!
It was not until fellow Austin
enthusiast Ted Bale said, I quote: "It pushes all the right buttons with me!",
that I decided there must be something in this! I struck up a partnership with
Ted. We both bought the car for a total of $1,800.00.
It happened that Ted was unable to
contribute both the time and money to the project because of family commitments.
I bought him out and continued with the project.
PULL APART & WONDERING " WHY"
Jeffery, initially told us, that
the motor had been completely reconditioned. He had been starting it "a couple of
times a year". On closer inspection, we could not remove the side water
manifold, without it crumbling. This did not look promising!
It turns out that the engine had
been full of water for 15 years. This had created lots of severe rust and scale
throughout the water jackets. It was decided the engine would be removed, for a
good look and check.
The engine, number 1A6625, is of
the later type, cast iron block and crankcase unlike the Austin Seven, standard
at 900cc. This engine measured up to be 40 thou over size. Three bearing,
counter-weighted and pressure fed crank.
The bottom end was in sound
condition. Todd Hobson of Motor Overhauls, agreed that the block needed lots of
descaling, soaking and, finally, blasting to remove the offending rust.
The cam and followers were
reground and valves tricked up a bit. The pistons were lightly scored, but were
not bad enough to throw away.
We managed to find some
rings, which after some major modifications to the pistons, we were able to use.
The valves and springs were unusable so, with some searching on the net, I found
some in New Zealand.
With all the necessary components
now to hand, I reassembled the engine. Todd had fitted the cam, bottom end and
timing chain. While the engine was away, I had made (exhaust) extractors
with integral inlet manifold, complete with balance pipe. The primary pipes
being 1 ¼" into a 1½" system.
The extractor plate had been
matched to the heavily ported block and
locked in place by dowels, prior to having being welded together. The
extractors, when finished and proven, were sprayed in aluminium.
The carbie is a single 1¼" SU
fitted with a No. 3 needle.
The cooling system, designed and
built by myself, consists of an aluminium low flow radiator and a Davies Craig
Electric Water Pump controlled by their EWP Controller. The air flow handled by an 11" electric
fan, controlled by a thermo switch in the radiator.
REMAINING DRIVE TRAIN
The gear box was extensively
reconditioned by my engineer friend, Geoff Battersby. We found we had to modify
the selector rail detent grooves, as they did not allow the selectors to fully
engage 3rd & top gear. It appears 3rd and 4th only engaged on the dog
clutches by about 40 percent from the initial setup in the factory!
The back end has been left, to see
how it shapes up. It sounds reasonable, a bit of a rumble, but not bad! The entire diff housing has had massive
reinforcement plates welded to it, obviously built with some “rough work” in
The body, known as a “Milano”, is a fibreglass copy of either a '57 Testa Rosa or, if you prefer, an early Jaguar. I have had lots of differing opinions. It was made by JWF Fibreglass in Sydney. Some research highlights the fact that the body was made as a “Coupe” and an open “Sports”. Some 125 bodies were made between 1959 & 1962.
This body was made to suit a
wheelbase of 7 foot 3 inches (Big Seven). There were a couple of sizes. A
smaller one to suit the Austin Seven Ruby was known to be available. Opinions
are that there are not many existing bodies known to exist. I know of a possible
PAINTING & REPAIR OF THE BODY
This totally unknown exercise to me, was
carried out by fellow club member Ian Smith, of Mobile Vinyl & Plastic
Repairs. The body was in a fairly poor state, cracks, attempted repairs and the
doors, which used to swing down, were crudely glassed into place
The body was repaired as required
and extras were carried out, such as the screen mount modifications. Whilst this
was happening, I fabricated the roll bar and mounts, which are bolted to the
upswept section of the chassis, rising above the back axle.
The fuel tank was removed,
cleaned, tested and a new filler neck was fabricated. This filler was used in
conjunction with a “Monza” style flip-up fuel cap actually from a Valiant
Charger of 70's vintage.
The chassis had been plated. This,
now that it is drive able, makes the entire car very resistant to twisting. The
original engine mounts were not useable. I thought that instead of the old
vulcansied type, I would remake both the front and rear engine mounts, using
modem machinery mounts.
I was able to spread the rear ones
out, to spread the load of the rear over a greater area. The result is a very
stable engine, sitting flat on mounts rather than on inclined mounts.
The chassis was fitted with modern
shock absorbers all round. Once again, the car handles very well even though
when I tried to replace them, as I thought they had been on the car for some
twenty years, no one could match them up to anything! This is a problem for
FLOOR & SEATS
The floor when I bought the car
was of builders ply of about ¾" thick. I have thrown out all the above plus the
half made glass and aluminium firewall.
New aluminium seats were made by
Joe Holland, of Backyard Motorsports. I fabricated an entire aluminium floor and
firewall system, with removable centre and side panels. This floor sits below
the chassis level, raising up and around the rails as required.
I will thank Mark Lucas, whilst
not being a "metal fabricating" type guy, his assistance was needed and
appreciated, whilst the difficult floor and firewall fabricating was carried
This complex task was completed
with endless assistance from Tony Hadley from Foy's Auto Electrical. I decided
that due to the load of EWP, controller, fan, headlights etc and the fact that I
was going 12 volt on this car, I would opt for the compact option of a late
model alternator. This fits in very
neatly on the drivers side of the engine, using the existing generator mount
I did away with the heavy
crankshaft pulley and I am using a light weight alloy pulley, as only the
alternator is driven from this pulley.
The headlights presented a
challenge, only a hole existed in the body, no mounts at all! I found after
considerable research, that I could use rubber mounted tractor lights. They are
12 volts, high and low beam and built in park lights.
The rear lights are mounted on a
powder-coated rolled 2" aluminium tube, which was rolled to a pattern. An MG
type Lucas number plate light is used and motor cycle indicators.
A solid state 12 volt electric
fuel pump is used.
The original screen was
fitted via an ugly curved bracket arrangement. This bracket was fastened to the
body using 6 x 3/16" metal threads. I had this bracket glassed into the line of
the car prior to painting. The result is a lot easier on the eye, as the line
The small perspex screen caused a
bit of worry until I spoke to Tony Neal at All Plastics and Signs. He simply
took a cardboard pattern of the base of the screen and created a shape similar
to one half of an Easter egg, using what I would describe as a blow moulding
process. With some careful work on the bandsaw, I was able to cut two screens
from this section.
I intend to use the car to enjoy
some mildly competitive driving, regularity racing, hillclimbs, as well as on
road rallying in general.
The “Milano” was registered on the
23rd February 2000, and is in regular use.