Saturday, 9 July 2011

The car is the star

There they were,taking pictures of our Singer Chamois,a quick explanation and I was then taking pictures of them.


Friday, 8 July 2011

Irvin Seat Belts

A visit a few years back from a fellow Hillman Imp Club member had him comment on the fact that our own 1967 Singer Chamois has the now quite rare Irvin seat belts,news to me,they are the ones fitted with the car when it was given to us.(thanks Alistair)

Now a collectors item it seems,they were the best at the time they say and the fact that the parachute lable had a direct link with air planes seems to have something to do with it?

This is a slightly different design to the ones on our Singer,it has a central stainless steel insert that makes use of its tension on the belt as a friction provider.

Note,the buckles are SABS approoved,meaing they were either standard issue in South Africa and that those on our Singer Chamois were fitted here,not in Scotland where our car was made,as its an imported car.

The Irvin story,now I understand the importance of the name Irvin!


Irvin's History

Founder Leslie Leroy Irvin was an inventive man with great vision. He made aviation history as the first ever free-fall parachute jumper-with a parachute he invented and made himself in 1919. The first fall was from over 1500' over McCook Field in Ohio, USA. He used a 28' Flat Circular canopy in a 4Pin Container.

That single ambitious jump brought orders for more chutes, giving his aviation manufacturing company, Irvin Air Chute Company, its beginning. The Irvin parachute gained rapid acceptance, and by the early 1930's was in service with some 40 air forces around the world.

In 1922 Irvin started a club called the "Caterpillar Club". To become a member, your life must have been saved by a parachute (not a club many try to get into). He selected the name Caterpillar Club in homage to the silk threads that made the original parachutes and the fact that the caterpillar lets itself down to earth by a silken thread. "Life depends on a silken thread," is the club’s motto.

Irvin introduced his product into automotive applications in 1922 when he designed and built the first seat belt for famed auto racer Barney Oldfield. Diversification, along with company growth, has continued at a steady pace over the years. Business historians easily track the introduction of automotive products from Irvin as a close parallel to the growth and development of the automotive industry itself.

In 1989 Irvin Automotive Products, through acquisition, became a division of Takata Corporation, one of the world's leading automotive OEM suppliers of safety restraint systems. Established in 1933, Takata shares Irvin's long and successful history as an innovator within the automotive industry. While Takata's other North American divisions specialize in seat belt, electronics, and air bag technology, Irvin Automotive Products, Inc. focuses on soft trim components and assemblies for interior automotive applications. Today, Irvin is known for supplying a full line of high-quality interior trim products to OEMs worldwide. Irvin's products include seat covers, headrests, cargo shades, barrier nets, armrests, and sun visors.

Lucas tail lights

Lucas,once named the Prince of darkness in the motor trade,I dont know why really,excepting as the cars get older wire looms and earths in particular become less effective? When the Rootes Car Co chose the Lucas rear lights for their new Hillman Imp range to be released in May 1963,they chose a light fitting that was also to be found on Aston Martin,Lotus,Jensen and Lotus,did TVR use them too.

Ex a 1966 Singer Chamois Sport,far from new but still quite servicable.

Working on a car on its side certainally can be recomended,at this time I am doing a dry run to see what fittings are ex stock and what still needs to be flown in,the head lights will be fitted today as well.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

One of those makes one of these

Both circa 1967 and both ex Scotlands Linwood factory where they were built,the finished car is a Mk2 Singer Chamois,the car on its side is a Hillman Imp Mk2 that was built (assembled,ckd) in South Africa but will be rebadged as a 1966 Singer Chamois Sport,which we broke due to a poor body shell,all parts and documents are original though.

Left click either image to view in a larger size and greater detail.

Today we fitted the Singer Sports new front radiator & made a discovery when it was finished too,once the front is removed,the entire area under the front petrol tank is accessable to view and work in,what a nice thing to have.Now service of the clutch and brake master cylinders is easy,we can also see and check the petrol exit pipe too.

The black box to the right is a pair of water service pipes from the rear engine to the front radiator,still to be plumbed in but an easy job given the space and access we now have.


Driving and working with Imps for 47 years!

And another view of the Imp side on

Or is that side up,probably?

Looks great to me and I can now fit the cars front radiator,run some water pipes and fit the petrol tank too.

So today I start making spaces on the storage shelves where this cars parts have been waiting for their refit,time to plan another one soon?


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Making extra space in your garage

This is easy,you came home,drove into the garage and into the rig and just rolled it over 45 degrees,you will get at least one more car in there now?

Hey,this 1967 Hillman Imp will be so easy to work on now,as with both sides easy to access I can work standing up without any strain at all.The first job is to fill the steering box with Shell Oils Spirax EP80/90 gear oil.

When is a car old?

Brian,an Imp Club member down in New Zealand asked me last week when does a car bcome old? not  a bad question,I would like to think old in this case means when it can no longer do what it once did and becomes useless.

This is the underside of a Hillman Imp and the hand brake assembly,the parts are either new,as in the cables or recycled such as the cross bar and springs,the hand brake will of course now work as it was when new.

The same cars front suspensions,new poly bushes fitted in the center pivot arms but the Armstrong original shock absorbers are quite ok and have been beed blasted clean,then black smooth Hammerited with a spray gun.The steering rack was fitted with a new rubber gaiter made for the Imp Clubs Spares department.Thats a new stainless brake hose hanging there too,that will be fitted to the new disc brakes soon.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Hillman Imp 998cc conversion

We now have the parts sourced and the engineers have sorted out the process,we can now supply the motors to order,exchange Mk2 block,crank and rods required.

Left click the picture to view some quality engineering in more detail.

Both these engines are Mk2 blocks,we can do the Mk1 but they are not as stiff,mind you there are a number of tricks and methods to get over this problem to some extent. The block in the front is the 998cc unit,with totaly new liners,the block at the rear is a sports version with plus 60 thou,pistons and will measure to 916cc,the maximum we can bore to on standard liners. Suitable cylinder heads with enlarged valves and ports can be matched to your chosen size block.


The Astra story,a continuation

Astra will now be around 77 years old,thats quite an old lady ,my involvment was from the time Jean and I saw her on a rickity boat park trailer in the public car park in Simonstown,the result was well documented,its in this blog if you care to find it,most is at there is a fast link to that and some of my other stories here at .

I rebuilt Astra in the only way how I know will last,cold moulded with  a new outer hull,no she will not measure as the Tumlaren she is but who cares,there are none other to race against,so its not an issue.

We re launched about 12 years back,the rebuild took me 18 months I think,all part time and mainly weekends,the HBYC kindly donated hard space to the project,thanks guys.

As the project took on to a decent pace,some from the local TBA took interest and Oscar and Howard decided to take Astra on as their own,I handed over to them and they became her new owners.The boat now belongs to Oscar,here it is on a trailer in Simonstown (i think) she looks fine to me from these pictures,which were taken and supplied by Justin,who tells me he used his Canon G12 to take the pictures.

Proof enough that quality ockume marine plywoods,epoxies and Internationals Interthane paints work well together.


Sunday, 3 July 2011

The impossible staircase by Div De Villiers

I have lifted this from Divs own web site,many thanks Div.


The impossible staircase

Sun, 02/07/2010 - 22:37
by Div

Sometime last year I was approached by a client who wanted a very unusual staircase. It had to consist of a single beam with the treads straddling the beam. To make matters interesting, the beam had to have the shape of a bow when seen in plan view. To make matters even more interesting the beam also had to have concave sides when seen in section, wide at the top, narrow at the bottom.

No structural plans were available and the architect had only provided a conceptual plan view and elevation with no details or dimensions. I don’t think his computer could cope with all the compound curves! The architect felt it was impossible to build the staircase in timber.

Gluing up the laminates

Now if you want my attention, tell me it is impossible to build something in timber! I immediately accepted the challenge and told my client in not so many words that it is not about whether it is possible or not but rather whether his cheque book was big enough!

And so with my big mouth I quoted a price, accepted a deposit and tied myself to a delivery date. The agreement even included a penalty clause! Thinking back, I must have sounded very confident to the client. Or something. No drawings, a hefty deposit, me telling him to trust me with the design of form and structure, construction and installation, all in the face of a respected architect that said it was not possible.

The time came where I had to put my money where my mouth is. I laid out the plan view shape as I saw it on some hardboard, then mocked it up in the house to get a feel for where I was going. The client approved of the shape. I took the hardboard pattern back to the shop and built a laminating form out of shutter ply. The total span or length of the beam was to be around 4,5m. Using my very scientific thumb suck approach, I figured a beam of 250mm x around 140mm would do. That meant 15 laminations of 9mm exterior Pine plywood. I decided to use resorcinol glue for the job. It is widely used in industry for structural bonding i.e. lam beams, plywood etc and is very good for laminating.

Also I’ve had much experience with it building masts when I was boat builder.

Read Divs full story at

Well done mate,thats a fine piece of work!