DOUG'S 'HEAVY METAL' GALLERY

 

T A N K SC A R R I E R SG U N SA R M O U R E D   C A R S

 

Restoring a Scorpion - the saga.
   (Ver 3)

 

Part 3.

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January 2004

Start as you mean to go on I thought, so I had a few hours in the shed. It is bitterly cold today but I became totally engrossed in what I was doing, and did not notice it. I checked the turret electrics and they seem to work - at least a few little clicks and whirrs came out. I do not know why the whole thing seems connected through the night sight but there it is. If I turn that on then everything else works. I am not sure about the intercom yet, it takes two to test so I left that. Still it was good to see some lights in the turret.

I re-fitted the driver’s foot well and cleaned the compartment out. It all went fairly well, although the ball joint on the throttle pedal is a bit suspect. Back to the same problem as the other one, still I have Stoneleigh coming up so I will see then. The foot well went in easily, as it should, but I do not get too optimistic these days. Another frustration, I had put the brake pedal aside in a safe place as you cannot re-fit it until the floor is in. As usual I had forgotten how safe the place was, so hunted around for half an hour. Found it, and that is another box ticked.

A bucket of Flash later the floor looks clean and I have given the whole area a rub down. The little step makes getting in so much easier and I feel that progress is being made; so much so that I put on the temporary decking. These are two bits made from plywood that act as top covers. I found them in a hedge at Alvis’s test ground and it makes it so much easier that carting the full armour on and off. They are a bit tatty, which is probably why they were thrown away, so I will make some more next winter. Even with grubby plywood in place she is beginning to look like a tank. I would not rely on it to stop a bullet though.

Tomorrow the hunt for metal starts in earnest. I need some 3mm, 6mm and 10mm plate to make some brackets and mud flaps. You would not think that in a large city it would be so difficult to find a metal stockist. I probably have not tried hard enough. I have to make some supports for the mudflaps, which should not be difficult as I have a pattern, the brackets for the wing mirrors and a bracket to take the amber beacon.

This beacon is getting to be a problem. I have bought the correct one and an installation kit that fits a 432. There is no Scorpion fit as there are no Scorpions, but there is a Scimitar fit. I have not seen it, but Martin has described it and it seems like some serious engineering. I reckon that I can do something unless it involves welding. Harry can do that, so I will do the design. What has to be made is a bracket that sits between the two hatches and carries the beacon towards the rear of the vehicle. The difficulty is that the rear top of the turret slopes down slightly, so the 432 fitting which is designed to go into a spare aerial mount cannot go directly on to the turret as I had hoped. If it were to the beacon would slope backwards. On the other hand if it sits between the hatches it will be in the way, hence the bracket. I am busy scribbling on bits of paper. My dilemma is whether I make a bracket to take the 432 mount, or a bracket that incorporates the fittings of the 432 mount and looks really neat. The whole thing is designed to stop vehicles crashing in to me by alerting them to the fact that I am probably slower than they are. It does not seem to work on tractors around here, but we shall see.

A good day in the shed today. Harry came around and we sorted out the intercom and turret electrics. We now have full intercom at all stations and the volume and everything else is fine. There was a bit of an attrition rate with the pressels and I have a few for Andy to look at. They all work, but not all work correctly, so it is probably fairly easy to sort out. Whatever the problem I know that Andy can do it if he has time.

That apart, the driver’s seat frame and back went in and Harry adjusted the carburettor so that it ticks over evenly and at the right speed. We still have to use the gas analyser on it, but that can be done another day. I think Harry wants to take it off and give it a clean out, but I am a bit nervous of that unless I have gaskets to put it back together. I re-sealed one of the hub plugs which was weeping and then came a big leap. As it has been reasonably dry today, and now that we have comms, it seemed silly not to give her a thrash up the road. So we did.

The engine was already warm and purring very sweetly. Adding the driver’s seat frame and base made the controls much easier to handle and the steering tillers fitted just where you would want them. So, once out of the shed and around the field for a couple of laps and we set off. I have clearance of about a foot each side through the gate and need to trim a holly bush to make it slightly easier. It is the right season for holly so I left it, but now twelfth night is past I can trim to my heart’s content. I have the turret slightly askew at the moment to make access to the engine bay and driver’s compartment easier so we were careful. Having managed the gate, we swung left and off up the road to Brian’s silage pit. We turned around, came back and through the gate into the field.

It was a marvellous feeling. I did not push it, we managed to get into fourth gear and about fifteen miles an hour, but she behaved sweetly. The gear linkage is not very precise and I managed a couple of false neutrals, but otherwise the brakes and steering seemed perfect. Harry had not been in it on the road before, so he enjoyed it and it seemed the end of a particularly difficult era to me.

Once back in the shed we looked her over and apart from being very muddy she was fine. The right track has dropped a bit, so the ram is probably defective. I have another and am on leave the week after next so I will swap it then. I wonder whether this had any influence on the final drive failure as it might put a strain on the drive train, but probably I will never know. Anyway, I feel that I am on the home straight now and can look forward to enjoying taking her to rallies this year. Given my past success, I must avoid Hubris. I took a cup of tea down to the shed this evening and sat inside the turret by the light of an inspection lamp. It seemed very peaceful for some odd reason, and looking around the turret I realised that there are not that many real jobs to do. There is a lot of tidying up and painting and I have a few parts still to find, but by and large she is complete. I do not get to sit in the turret often, I am usually the driver and over recent months my efforts have been concentrated in the engine and gearbox bay. I suppose that I was in a bit of a day dream, but in the fading light with the birds starting the evening chorus I felt a sort of tranquillity. I had better not confess this to Anne, or she will think me weirder than she already does.

So - my target for the next week is to get the metal I need for the brackets and mud flaps and to get on with them. I have taken one off as a pattern so the job is on the way. I have also ordered the rest of the tin for the shed, so progress on all fronts. Tony is coming down in a week or so, and we might just have a look at making some doors. That and the tin would really begin to keep her dry and would allow me to run electricity out from the garage without the fear that it will get wet and fizzy.

The mud flaps are now on order. This turned out better than I had thought. The supports have a cut out in them, nothing special but a round cornered square, if that is possible, taken from the lower edge. I had worked out how to cut it, but the chap who is supplying the metal offered to do it on his plasma cutter so they should look really professional. No-one can actually see them, but I will know. How often does this happen? You spend ages getting a hidden part looking right, rubbing it down, painting and carefully fitting only to find that you cannot see it and it really does not make any difference to the vehicle. I usually find at rallies that the public just say “Tank” and all the depth of restoration does not matter. That is the fun of it really.

Martin has a new project. It sounds really interesting as it is the last of the Alvis Stallion. These vehicles are very like his Streaker which is a load carrying CVR(T) and which was developed as a potential mine layer and general armoured platform. The Stallion is the same idea but based on the Stormer family vehicles. The in service version is now called Shielder and is fitted with the American Volcano mine system. I have had a look at the net and some other pictures I have and it is an impressive thing. It looks much bigger than the Scorpion and the Streaker and has a presence that some vehicles do not have. It needs some work and has been cannibalised, but I am sure that there is nothing that Martin and Dave cannot fix. I am going up in a couple of weeks and hope to see it. The Saracen is going well and they took the Streaker out for a road run last week. Apparently it went like a rocket.

Stoneleigh Militaria Event happens in a couple of weeks. It is about the biggest of its kind in the UK after the trade stalls at Beltring, and a magnet for all of us. I am lucky that it is only a couple of miles away from Anne’s mum so we can combine a trip there with my spares fix. I have started a list of things I must have, although I think that some will be a bit difficult. I always do this and then wander around aimlessly drooling. I do not like crowds much and it gets very crowded. I am getting better and do push and shove with the best of them, but it can be a trial. I have already ordered the camouflage net bungees, so I am guaranteed at least one treasure. I am looking for some cables to join up the new radio boxes and I want to make a box that taps into the electrical system and allows me to connect more stuff. I am not sure how it ought to work, as I have some things for the radio that have to connect to the 28v supply but there are not enough connectors on the turret fuse panel to take them. I plan to make a small metal box that runs off one connection and has some more sockets so that I can run the beacon and the crew emergency box. I think that this will involve me poking through boxes of stuff looking for bits of wire with the right plugs and sockets.

That apart there is always the impulse buy. They are the really fun ones. I had one the other day in a local surplus place when I went to get the rubber for the mud flaps. They had some ex service high visibility sleeves at fifty pence each so I haggled and got four for a pound. I will carry these so that Tony can wear them as commander and the traffic can see him. There are times, especially on roundabouts where my hands are full of steering and cannot manage the indicators, so Tony gives hand signals from the turret. Now he can do it with bright sleeves.

I do find that the price of stuff is creeping up though. The price of admission is also pretty high and this year it will be seven pounds. By the time I have had a cup of tea and a dog roll it will be ten pounds just to look around and probably a week of stomach trouble from the roll. I suppose that it replaces postage and it is a day out. Harry is coming with us, so I had better watch him with stall holders.

It is now truly Winter. We have had gales from the South West and the rain has been awesome. I went out to the shed this morning and everything is soaking. The ground around is like a quagmire and the Scorpion is covered in condensation. I am not particularly worried, although it is unlikely that I will take her out whilst the ground is like this. She is absolutely filthy after the last trip out and this makes working on her less attractive. I took off the mud flaps earlier in the week and they were absolutely encrusted with mud. This in turn transfers to your hands and when added to the oil, becomes a grimy slime. Having said that, working in the shed has to be better than working in the field, so I had better stop whining. The shed is getting better, once the sides are finished I will make some doors and then in the summer will look to put a concrete base down. I think that will make a tremendous difference and will certainly improve working conditions. Anne wants me to shift my kit from the loft to the shed, but I am concerned about damp and mice.

It’s funny how much kit you collect over the years. I have been listing it recently, not because I am sad and want to know what I have, but to make packing for a rally easier. My idea is that I list what I need to take and also list where it is stowed, and I can then check that I have taken everything. The whole schedule runs to thirty two pages. In my defence, that is double everything as you have a list of what is to be taken and a list of the same stuff stowed on the vehicle but even so. The problem is that despite all this, there are the little voices which make you buy more. I saw an advert on the Internet yesterday for some of the camouflage pole tent pegs. Only a pound each, which is a pound cheaper than I bought them at Malvern, but as they weigh heavy, the cost of posting could be prohibitive. I have asked the chap if he is going to Stoneleigh so it could be another car park deal. They are actually on my list for Stoneleigh so they cannot be classed as an impulse buy. Honestly Anne.

I will be on leave from Friday and one of the tasks I have is to get up into the loft and tidy the kit up. I have bagged and labelled it as part of the great kit schedule, so it should not be too difficult to do. I have found a local shop that sells plastic stacking storage boxes and will see if I can tidy it up in those. That should score some Brownie points. I will also check my lists against what I have. Easy really.

The beginning of leave and I have finished a few jobs around the house to set myself up for the week. I have tested the pressels that did not work on the Scorpion and they all work bar one now. There is a set of small contacts inside that are closed by moving a slide on the outside of the switch and these were not making contact. I imagine that they spring back over time, so I have bent them up. I cannot get one to work in the left ear at all and one of my headsets’ microphone is not working. I have had a look and cannot see any damaged wiring, so if there is a break then it is inside the cable. I will add a headset to my list for Stoneleigh. Some of the kit is already in the loft, as unfortunately is the cat. He rushes up as soon as the trap door is open and is a devil to get down. We have some mice there, so I do not really mind. Saves them eating my kit. Although it is forecasting cold weather for tomorrow I will try to get the pressels tested on the vehicle. I will start to make some bases for the battery boxes as well and then I can clamp them down. If it is not raining, who knows - another trip up the road seems reasonable.



End January 2004

I have had a very productive month. The weather during my leave was pretty good, a little bit of drizzle on some days, but the rain held off. The wind has now moved around to the North and the temperatures have dropped like a stone. We had a severe frost this morning and in the Midlands over the weekend it was bitter.

I have managed to cross a few jobs off my list without adding too many to the bottom. The tin for the shed has arrived, but I do not have anyone around at the moment who is well enough to help. Tony came down for a week but had put his back out just before he set off and Mike is also suffering with his. Mine has been pretty good recently, but watch how quickly that can change. So, old crocks that we are, we decided to do some gentle stuff.

I made a couple of spacers for the turret battery box, the idea being to clamp the batteries into the existing boxes. They are much smaller than the original military fit, so something is needed. I measured up, following my usual practice of measuring twice and cutting once, and the first set of bits to raise the battery from the floor went fine. What happened after that I do not know, but the job went totally to rats. I measured the distance carefully and cut. All the bits were too big. I realised that instead of 31cm I had cut at 13 inches. I do not do metric well, so perhaps that was it. Anyway, I cut them all down to 31cm. They still did not fit. This time it was because I was too careful and the curves at the end of the bins prevented the bits from sliding down the bin. In the end I just cut an inch off each side and they were fine. I now have a pattern.

The major engineering this week consisted of making a gear change bracket. This is a U shaped piece of rod which passes through a bracket and this fixes it to the bulkhead. Two clevis pins connect the linkages together and after this, depressing the foot pedal should change the gear. What a sweet job it was. I relied on my first year metalwork skills to heat up the rod and bend it until it seemed to line up. A bit more heat and a big hammer made some flats on the end, and then Harry bent and welded up the bracket. The following day we drilled the mounting holes and connected the whole thing up. It worked like a dream.

There was only one thing for it - a test drive. We set off up towards the silage pit and I managed a couple of gear changes. On the way back we thought that it would be foolish not to see how far we could get, so we carried on up the hill to the village. She went very well. There is a small oil leak from the gear box near the right hand steering brake, but this seemed to burn off with application, and although there was a difference between the willingness to turn left and right, it was not marked. I managed to get her into fifth, at about twenty miles an hour or so. Now twenty miles an hour does not seem too fast when you drive a car, but in a tank it seems like a rocket. The engine and track noise become deafening, even with the acoustic helmets on, and vibrations through the hull add to the impression of speed.

I had forgotten exactly what she was like to drive, and it was a bit of a stressful experience. As I say, she seems much faster than she is, and I worry about braking distances. I have never worked out why servos are not fitted to these things. Stopping nearly ten tons on tracks takes some doing, and even getting myself braced onto the pedal I cannot do what I would consider an emergency stop. I have had problems in the Ferret with this, not my fault generally, but other drivers seem determined to reduce my carefully judged braking gap but overtaking and then slamming the brakes on. A high pucker factor then ensues. This time we did not need to do any of that, as the roads seemed deserted. A shame really as I would have liked some adulation after all the hard work.

With an analytical eye on the trip, I would score myself at about seven out of ten. I made a complete pig of a left turn by being in too high a gear and had to stop and change down. I also went down a gear instead of up, which caused Tony some discomfort. In fact I think that the whole ride caused him some discomfort as I had forgotten how much she rocked. Our road is not particularly smooth as it is a country lane, and over the undulations she was up and down like a rocking horse. Every gear change up and down seemed to induce a bucking, and on one stretch this combined with some side to side rolling around the corners after the silage pit. It did not seem too bad to me, but Tony said that up top it was quite severe. I suppose that the turret is a fair height over the waist and that the centre of gravity is fairly high. I know that when I leave the shed it seems that the nose dive into the ground will throw me out over the bulkhead. Tony took a picture with his new digital camera, but we could not get it out of the thing. He has promised to e-mail it to me, but has to sort out his e mail first. I saw it on the back of the camera and the angle did not look as severe as it felt, so we shall see.

After a pressure wash she went back into the shed and I was really happy. It is all coming together and we are on track for the first rally in May. I have found a local engineering supplier who sells proper metal and he has made some mud guard supports for me. They are just like the real thing and cheaply done. This and a roll of rubber I found in a surplus shop will finish that job. A contact also e-mailed and said that he had some more bits for the inside and that he would meet me at Stoneleigh. He has been very good in the past, finding a commander’s seat and the final drive and he is reasonable on price. A few more things ticked off my list.

We went to Stoneleigh on the Sunday and travelled up on the Saturday. On the way there is a small surplus tool shop in that is not far from the motorway, so we called in. He had some large camouflage poles and spreaders for sale, so I could not resist. I plan to put a net over the 9x9 so that we can sit out the front in some sort of shade. Last year at Pendennis we almost fried because we could not get out of the sun, and the dog finds it very hot. The aim is to drape the net over the tent with some sticking out in the front to provide the dappled shade for us to sit in. Anyway, I picked up enough to do the job for less than twenty five pounds. That is good surplus prices, unlike Stoneleigh.

I suppose I should not moan about Stoneleigh, it was quite good. Helen decided that she wanted to come with us, so that made a refreshing change. I am not sure what she made of it, and I have threatened to take her again next year if she does not eat her greens/ do her homework etc. Terry was not well and did not go so I did not get the bits for the inside, but he will keep them until later so they are not lost. I did spend some money, more probably than I ought, but ended up with very little to show for it. Three cam pole pegs for ten pounds gives you an idea of why.

I nearly spent a load more as a chap had some replica smoke dischargers for the Scorpion for sale. I have been trying everywhere to get some. I have some four pot ones but cannot fit them as I have no brackets. The three pot ones bolt straight on to the existing holes in the turret. The whole question of munitions and weapons is becoming very tricky here at the moment. We have a perceived increase in the amount of gun crime in the UK, although I am not sure whether this is in fact as bad as all that. There were 90 people killed last year as a result of firearms, compared with 200 in France and over 11000 in the USA. 90 is obviously too many and if you are a victim or a family member then guns are bad. There is an element with in the criminal fraternity that re-activate deactivated and replica guns, and this is leading our politicians into a frenzy. I think that the problem is that it is a cheap solution and one that will appeal to our right wing tabloids. To that has to be coupled the fact that there is in general little public support for replica or deactivated firearms. It is likely that there will be a ban shortly, or at least some form of licensing. A particular range of gas powered pistols will be banned as from April, and not only importation will be covered but possession will be unlawful. A similar thing happened a few years ago after a terrible shooting incident in Scotland and all pistols are now banned in the UK for any purpose. I used to shoot target pistol but I do not particularly worry over a ban, provided that it serves the purpose for which it is intended. I am not sure that making the possession of a gun an offence will actually deter criminals.

So what has this to do with the price of fish? Well, the Home Office has decided that smoke dischargers are a weapon, and that they need a top firearms certificate or have to be deactivated. The cost of this is astronomic, an article recently quoted £50 per tube plus expenses just to get the certificate and that does not include the cutting and welding to make them inert. This chap paid over three hundred pounds to have his Ferret ones made legal, so replicas might be the way ahead. I still think that they will be licensed in due course though. Yet another tax.

On the subject of taxes, the Vehicle Licensing Department are now starting to play hard ball. From January they are looking at all vehicles that do not have road fund licences. Now you would think that this is a good idea as many people are driving around without them and they should be caught. This is however too difficult as it involves courts and police and could cost money. What they are doing is to look on the computer and if your vehicle is untaxed you just get an £80 penalty. The problem is that this does not just include those driving around, but all those restoration projects in the garage, basket cases and stuff like Andy’s lorry that has not turned a wheel in years. Again, do you think that this will deter the criminals? I was looking in a local paper over the weekend and the average fine for driving with no insurance seemed to be about seventy pounds. I pay about two hundred and fifty a year, so it almost makes economic sense to take the risk. As most of those appearing would likely be uninsurable I do not know what sort of message this is sending.

I will climb down off my soapbox now and have a cup of tea.

Later that evening, blood pressure back to normal. I now have a list of jobs for February, and with luck I have all the bits I need apart from a few bolts. Should balance out the cost of January. I am very close now to putting the top armour back on but am torn over what to do with the oil leak. I spoke to one of the Alvis lads at Stoneleigh and he said that it is either a seal or an O ring and the chances are that it was probably nipped during fitting. To replace it I have two options; I remove the gearbox and do it on the bench or I remove the final drive and do it through the hole. Both of these options have a familiar ring to them. I am tempted to try the final drive route as that involves less pain and removal of ancillaries. As Graham said, the problem is when you get water on the disc as well and that in combination with the oil effectively stops friction. Chastened by that I will have to look at the oil seal. One consolation is that the bolts on the final drive are not seized in and I should be able to take it out pretty quickly. I imagine that a week or so should sort it out. Better start looking for the seals then.
A week has passed with no progress. More gales from the West and loads of rain. The shed is fairly dry, although the temporary sheeting is beginning to suffer. In order to do the gearbox seals I might reverse the position and point the nose into the shed away from the elements. Although it will be darker there, it should be dryer.

After that I will finish the driver’s compartment and make the rest of the batteries secure. I really cannot see any bar to putting the top armour back on then. I think that once this is doen then she will look like a real tank. There is a little bit of painting to do - mainly to touch in the knocks she has had over the past couple of years, but that will have to wait for better weather. I might extend the sides of the shed in a few months to give me a little more room, but it will depend on many things.

The insides will take their turn. Apart from the seats it is only detail and painting. It is a little too damp in the air to do too much of that at the moment, as I find that unless I use Hammerite (which I do for some bits), the rust comes through. A few years ago Harry and I sprayed the Ambulance and this has come home to haunt me. Harry said that it was too damp to do it (it was October ) but I wanted to get her ready for Poppy Day. Needless to say Harry was right and although she looked smart for the day, most of the paint in the seams and on horizontal surfaces has peeled. I now need to rub her down again and have another go, but I will not do that until the weather turns.

The weather looks as it if will improve next week and I will start to take the tracks off again. It should be easy!



Mid February 2004

A cold afternoon spent finishing the walls of the shed. All that is left now is to make the doors and concrete the floor, and then install lights and power. I have the sheets for one of the doors, so all I need is Tony and his woodworking skills. I have never managed to get on with wood, even in school.

Removing the sheeting has made such a difference; it is darker but quieter and almost instantly dryer. I get some condensation from the roof, but nothing that should cause a problem. It’s going to be a pleasant place to work. Once I get a proper floor and lights there, it will be a real pleasure.

I am surprised by the infrastructure that is required to keep this show on the road. I was not really expecting this to be honest. I had hoped that she would go in the garage, but it was not big enough. I have also been surprised by the need for heavy tooling. Once the shed is finished I will need some form of lifting capability as getting things like the top armour off is difficult at best and impossible by myself. It is a combination of weight and height. I can lift it with an engine crane, but it is already well off the ground and at maximum elevation it does not clear the vehicle properly. I have visions of trapped fingers and crushed toes.

I suppose that looking back at the early stages I was a little naïve. I was also probably blinded by the desire to own a tank. On the other hand, had I realised how difficult it was going to be I would probably not have taken it on. Catch 22. I think that this year will be the make or break. If I get a few rallies in and enjoy those without too much trouble then that will be fine. If it degenerates into a series of problems then I might just call a halt and sell up. We shall see.

I went to see the Stallion on the weekend. What a beast. Although it is based on the CVR(T), it is so much bigger than the Scorpion and the Streaker. In volume it seemed much the same as the Saracen, although obviously the flat bed at the back reduces the sense of size from that angle. From the front it is really impressive. The hull seems to go out to the width of the Scorpion including the flotation screen lip and then there are bins added. I assume that the load envelope that restricts the size of the Scorpion has changed or that they are not designed to be air portable.

The layout is much the same as CVR(T). The engine is fore and aft and mounted to the right of the driver. The gearbox is a beefed up version of CVR(T) and sits across the compartment right at the front. The final drives and every thing else follow the same pattern and the road wheels, track and sprockets are common. The rest of the bits are part of the Stormer family - again they are really only beefed up CVR(T) parts. Looking at things like the rear idlers, you can see that the family resemblance is there but that they are improved. The engine is a six cylinder Perkins diesel and is bigger than the Jaguar engine. There are some slight control differences to take this into account, but nothing too dissimilar.

This model is one of the prototype batch that was built for the 1991 Gulf War. They were designed and produced in fourteen weeks and some were shipped out to take part. This one did actually serve and was fitted with the French Minotaur mine laying system. After the war the vehicle was trialled and is now in service as the Shielder. There are some detail differences and the mine system has been changed to the American Volcano system. All in all an unusual vehicle and one that should stand out.

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It is now nearly the end of March and there has been no progress on the oil leak. The vehicle itself is coming on and some minor jobs have been ticked off. I have been thinking a lot about the leak and how to do it. I am not very happy at the idea of doing what is effectively key hole surgery. I am worried that if access to the bits is restricted then the chance of something going wrong is much greater. A little pessimistic perhaps, but none the less a real worry. If for example one of the little machine screws shears then drilling it out accurately through a small hole in the side would be almost impossible. I went back to the Midlands over the weekend and talked it over with mates there and the general consensus was that taking the gearbox out was the only real option. That way I have unfettered access all around and can also look at the other niggling leaks at the same time. As the thing has been out recently there should not be a problem and I do know what order to do everything in. I am off today and will start the process. I am told that a REME fitter is allowed an hour and a half to remove a gearbox, I have most of today. Once the access is easier, I will be able to put it on a pallet and work all around it. It has to be a better way in the long run. I was talking to a colleague the other day who summarised the Department’s IT philosophy as buy it cheap and buy it twice and that is what I have to avoid. I should not try to bodge the job when it could end up having to be done twice and possibly in a more difficult fashion.

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The job does not entail much really. The leak is through the seal that fits over the output shaft and prevents the oil running down the shaft. There is a small O ring at the end as well. The plan is that the special nut on the end of the quail shaft coupling has to be removed and the O ring removed. Then the steering calliper bridge is removed, followed by the six Allen key bolts that hold the disc on. Once the disc is off, then there is a small cover held in by six tiny countersunk machine screws and under that is the seal. As they say in the manual, assembly is the reverse of disassembly. That is my mission. If this job goes well, I will probably spray the box as well whilst it is out.

Right then, the job has started. So far it is not difficult and everything is coming out nicely. I have noticed that there is a small leak in the radiator inlet hose which will have to be replaced when it goes back. I will also have to have a look at the engine as she did not want to tick over at all this morning. I think that it is probably as a result of not having had a good run, the exhaust is sooty and she sounds flat. I will take out and clean the plugs and have a look at the mixture. Putting the throttle linkage back changed it slightly as it was set initially with the throttle disconnected. Next time we will set it with the throttle linkage on. Harry has a gas analyser which we will use to get it perfect. Well, as perfect as you can on these.

I have been talking to someone who used to serve as a gunner in 1st RTR and he has sent me some photos which show how they were marked in service. Following his advice I have marked mine. I am surprised that these call signs appear in bright yellow on a camouflaged vehicle, but I am assured that the rear of the vehicle never faces the enemy. As I intend to lead from the front, then only my loyal followers will see the call sign.

More bits and pieces come off. Getting the driver’s seat out was more of a struggle than it should have been. It is pivoted at the front and the rear pegs are spring loaded with a Bowden cable that pulls them inwards. The pegs locate into two holes in the walls and this allows the seat to collapse so that the driver can close the hatch cover. They would not shift and it took over an hour to free them. Once off it seemed that the end had bent over and trapped one peg so that it would not respond to the cable. Adjusted by hammer it now runs free. Surgically adjusted by hammer I should say. The fire wall and radiator are out now, and I can see the steering calliper. I am having a break before looking at the fan bulkhead. This will involve oil and antifreeze, a most disgusting combination and will get everywhere.

The end of a productive day. The bulkhead is free but too heavy to lift unaided. I thought that last time we lifted it out by hand, but Mike and I could not shift it. The stripping of the bits and pieces went very well and there were no nasty surprises. I have found a couple of things that we did not do too well last time, one Jubilee clip not tightened and two radiator mounting nuts missing. We must be more careful this time. I think that the Jubilee clip could have been the problem with the early oil leak as it connects the filler pipe to the gear box. There was a trace of oil beneath it and I think that the leak occurred whilst it was filling. That would account for the fact that it seemed to stop pretty quickly afterwards. The seal that is to be replaced is leaking quite a lot when you look at it and there is a rim of oil on the front armour and the back of the bulkhead. Apart from that there does not seem to be too much oil around. There is the usual bit at the bottom of the hull, it does not seem to matter how careful you are there is always the odd dribble or spill. Once this mixes with bits of mud and brake dust then it all sticks to everything. I am always surprised at the amount of mud and stuff that ends up inside. I will take the opportunity to pressure wash the insides whilst the box is out and also give the box a good clean. In the meantime I must find a way to get the bulkhead out.

Tomorrow the bulkhead comes out and perhaps the gearbox. Chris will bring the tractor up tomorrow morning first thing and the bulkhead will come out. If I can free up the gearbox I will see whether he can come back again to lift the box out later.

I went to Malvern yesterday - managed to spend a bit and come away with very little. I met a chap who knows the Alvis crowd and he has a Scorpion that he bought recently. I saw some photos and it looks nice. Much like mine, although he has the smoke dischargers and there are probably a few more bits inside. He has offered to look after mine when it is up in the midlands later this year, so I now have somewhere warm and dry to keep her. He also has some oil seals if I get stuck, but I do not think that it will come to that. He will be going to the Town and Country at Stoneleigh at the end of August, and we are hoping to get a few CVR(T) together there. I think that there will be four turreted ones there, two Scorpions, a Scimitar and possibly a Sabre. I am looking forward to that.

A sunny morning and the bulkhead is out. It is surprising how easy it all is with a huge tractor and fork lift bars. The whole thing was done in fifteen minutes and now the gearbox is visible. I am having a break as the next stage of the job, withdrawing the final drives, is proving more difficult. The principle is that they are held into a splined cup and located with a spring loaded pin. To withdraw them you depress the pin and then jiggle them around until the thing starts to move. The difficulty with this in practise is that there is another set of splines half way down the shaft and they have to be freed as well. If this were not enough, the drive shaft is made in two parts that are pinned together and there is a slight flex. Once it goes though, it goes easily. At the moment we cannot get the thing to go at all. I am advised that smacking it hard with a hammer is not recommended, but it might sort out my blood pressure. As with all of this I think that I am too timid. Giving it a really good shove and twist will probably do it in half the time. Once I have had tea I will become more determined.

Three hours later and there is still no movement. I am sure that it is just a knack but it is getting frustrating. Even with the radiator off access is not easy and the shaft seems to be knocking against something. From what I remember last time it either goes or it does not. Today it does not. I made a mud flap for the rear today so it was not wasted. I tried to remove the track ram, only two 15/16” bolts but they would not budge. I will look out some ½” drive sockets and get a bigger bar on them.

Still, the evening is still sunny and spring is in the air. I have discovered a little nest of moss in the shed where I keep my odd bits and pieces. Something is messing all over the Scorpion but it will wash off. At least it is not a seagull.

Another sunny day, although with a promise of rain later. This week the weather has been very good, and coupled with the change in the clocks has meant that evenings have been light and long. Anne and I spent a couple of hours in the shed this morning and the drive shafts are disengaged. The first one popped out in about ten minutes, but the second one took longer. The difficulty was that the hole with the pin in was covered by the calliper and the whole scorpion had to be moved one turn of the sprocket. It took ages to do this with a crowbar as the shed floor is not that level and it just rocked up and down on its suspension. Anyway, we finally managed to get something in to depress the pin and that one popped out in about two minutes. All I have to do now is to remove the mounting bolts and wait until Brian or Chris can lift it out. Because of the weather they are very busy on the farm, so I do not want to bother them much. I will try over the weekend as it should only take half an hour or so.

Progress and a change in the weather have cheered me up. I am also in the process of selling the Ferret which has been on my mind for a while now. I just cannot keep on top of that number of vehicles and because it always needs a crew of two she does not go out as often as I would like. She looks as is she is going to a good home and I will be able to see her, so I am happy. I am too soft, but she was my introduction to military vehicles and we had some really good fun in her. I hope her new owners have the same.

I have started massive lists for the rally season. All the stuff I packed in the loft will have to come down now and be sorted out. We had a difficult season last year and I really need to get a good one under my belt to re kindle the interest. Thus far I am on target. I will have to try my kit on as I have put on a few pounds and I might need to do something about that. Buying the next size up would be the answer.

Looking around the gearbox bay there seems to be a spot of oil on the other side around the main brake. I am not sure where this is coming from as I cannot see anything, but it is a bit disconcerting. I hope that it will become clearer as I strip the box.

It is now a week later than the last entry and the box is still there. Brian and Chris are flat out and cannot fit me in. So I am stuck. I have tried to do a couple of other jobs but not succeeded much there. The track ram bolts are proving obstinate and despite the attentions of a long breaker bar and an impact driver they are not moving. I have filled it up with grease again so this has re-tensioned it, but for how long I cannot imagine. I am sure that they will come in time, but it will take a bit of a grunt. I imagine that there is a cementing process that has taken place over the years and that this has baked them in. I will enlist Mike’s help so that with two of us we should be able to get them off. The main problem I have is that the nuts are on the hull and this means at least an eight inch extension bar to get the l ever outside the tracks. It then wobbles so that I cannot drive down on it and hold the socket on the nut head. Another case where you need more than one person.

Otherwise I am optimistic. There is a small local rally about a mile or so away from home at the beginning of May and that looks like a good shakedown. I can walk there in half an hour, and there are plenty of people who could tow us home if the worst comes to the worst. I now have about a month. I figure that even of I have not managed all the twiddley stuff by then, she should at least look like a Scorpion and it will do us good to have a target. Once I have finished my tea I will start another list and prioritise. I do not foresee a problem. How about that for blind optimism and the power of positive thought?

Work is over for the day and I have made and fitted another mud flap and tidied the shed. The gearbox is still there but it is on its way out and it is only a question of time. At the same time that Brian moves the gearbox I am hoping that he will move the top armour nearer the shed so that I can start cleaning it up. Some of the cast intake louvers are rusty and need wire brushing before they are re-fitted. I will put the old gunner’s seat back in for the season so that we have somewhere to sit. These are small jobs but they mount up. I am surprised by how long it is taking to fit the mud flaps. Although there are only eight holes to drill and a piece of rubber to cut, it is taking over an hour and a half by the time that I have measured the locations, drilled them and then transferred those holes to the locking strip and then added the rubber. I managed to burn my finger on one of the strips by picking it up after I had drilled a hole. A silly thing to do, I admit, but why is it that you then stand there with it burning away whilst you find somewhere to put it down?

I have looked at the list and it is not too bad. Mind you, some of the one liners will no doubt take a while. It is easy to say “replace the quail shaft oil seal” or “refit the gearbox” and less easy to do. None the less, I will get it going for the eighth of May. I think I am in for some long nights, but at least the nights are that bit lighter and I can get something done.



April 2004

It is Good Friday and I have washed the insides out. Brian is flat out planting corn but has said that if it rains he will squeeze a gearbox lift in. The weather this weekend is forecast to be beautiful. Never mind, I can get other stuff together. I found last year that because of the gearbox problems I did not use the down time effectively and ended up with neither a vehicle that ran nor the camping gear ready. This year it will be different. Honestly. Today I will get up in the loft and work out what needs to be done. I can then tick it off my list. Once I have finished my tea that is.

I wonder some days whether I drink too much tea. I am a civil servant after all, and habits die hard, but I do find that it allows me time to think, although whether I think too much and do not do enough is a question. At the moment I cannot do much else.

A week has gone by and the gearbox is still in. Brian is still planting and making good use of the weather, although it is turning wetter in the next couple of days. It has been an odd season this year, it has been a cold start and wetter than normal so access to the fields has been difficult and there is not enough warmth in the soil for germination. It makes me glad sometimes that I am not a farmer. My mother came from a long line of farmers, but when my uncle retired the farm was sold up. I think that modern agriculture is much different to the farming I remember from school holidays.

Back to the Scorpion. I have ticked off a couple of small jobs, made another mud flap and started to undercoat the engine louvers ready to put back on. These are cast steel and very heavy. I did try to finish the name on the near side bin, but it was too dark in the shed to see the pencil lines and I was worried that it would end up wonky. The other day I assembled the camouflage poles and made a huge shelter with the net. I reckon I could get a Scorpion in it, but I will try later when she moves.

Three weeks to the rally and there has been some movement. I have had the gearbox out, another tractor as Brian is still very busy, and the seal is also out. As usual it was not the smoothest of jobs, but I am beginning to expect that now. The lift went well, Jimmy has a very soft control of the tractor loader and the box just eased out and was placed down on some ply in front of the tank. The dismantling of the calliper and the disc was fairly straight forward. The bolts holding the calliper down were seriously tight and it took a bit of scaffold tube on the socket to get it to come off. The disc came off easily as did the drive coupling and Tony and I were delighted to see that the diagnosis was correct. There was a dribble of oil from the seal and you could see that the back of the coupling and the disc were contaminated by this. The seal retaining ring came off after a bit of a struggle but one of the screws sheared. We managed to get the seal housing off and drifted the old seal out. It was shot - it almost looked as if it had been nipped on assembly as there was quite a flat spot on it. Interestingly one of the two tiny O rings that act as catchers was also missing. Anyway, armed with the old seal we headed to the city.

Am I getting grumpy or is there an apathy around these days that borders on the hostile? I had phoned ahead to an industrial distributor to check that they had something or could get something that would fit the bill. I gave the rough dimensions and the chap there said he could find something. When I get there a young man, probably about twenty to twenty two looks at the seal and tells me that it is a manufacturer’s special and they would not have it. All this information is gleaned without measuring. So, fair enough, he does not need the work and his firm probably do not need my small order. I ask whether there is anywhere else I could try in the city and am told that he does not know.

I then head on to the nut and bolt shop to get a replacement screw for the cover. It is a ¼ UNF by 5/8 countersunk slot headed machine screw. The twenty year old behind the counter looks at it and tells me that it is UNF. I agree, and there is a pause. I ask for six. He finds three that are ¼ UNF but an inch long with a Phillips head. I ask whether he has anything closer to what I want, as the heads look bigger and will not sit in the recesses on the retainer. He says no, rings his other branch and says that they have nothing either. I ask where else I might try, and he does not know. I ask where I might get a seal and he does not know.

I remembered a place out the other side of the city that had helped me find some mineral oil and I drive there. The chap is very helpful; they do not do seals but point me in the direction of a seal and bearing supplier in the next road. Morale is now climbing back out of the pit.

The lady at the seal supplier measures the old seal and produces one from the back of the shop. It looks pretty good, it is rubber rather than metal clad, but the old one is thirty years old and military. We return happy and she orders another and two sets of O rings for the next day.

That evening we offer up the seal to the retainer and it is a sloppy fit. It goes in and is roughly the same size, but whereas the old one was a tight interference fit, this one moves around and could be about a millimetre small. It fits the shaft well, so we think about looking for some sort of sealant that will glue the seal in place. As we have to go back to the seal shop we defer decisions until the following morning.

Another trip into the city, but as it is a sunny day, we do not mind. I also have to buy some lock wire pliers and some lock wire. This turns into another one of those days. It turns out that the seal we have is imperial and the one they have supplied is metric. That is why it does not fit properly. They will try to order some imperial seals, but the catalogues are showing a number of internal dimensions so we will have to bring the shaft in to measure it. However the chap behind the counter is keen to get it right and prepared to go to some lengths to help us, so that is not a real problem. We then trot off to a well known chain of tool shops to buy some locking pliers. No problem, so I ask if they have any locking wire. The youngster behind the counter tells me that he has only been there two months. He suggests a local timber merchant. Back home to get the shaft and then return later in the day. The seal will be in on Monday, but it will be narrower than the original. It should not matter as long as it seals.

The rest of the time is spent doing other odd jobs. The gearbox is sprayed and looks something special. Assessing it one year after the rebuild and it is good. The leakage that we had last year appears to have been as the result of a loose jubilee clip on the filler pipe and this can be remedied on the re-installation. Otherwise the box is oil tight. The brakes will need an overhaul in due course but as I cannot get the seals, this will have to wait until next winter. I have spoken to the manufacturer who has given me the name of an agent in the city, but the actual kits are not made up. The agent will have to persuade the factory to get the bits together for them. We shall see. I have found some new radiator hose and a useful supplier in a local town. They also do hydraulic hoses and other bits of stuff like that, so that should be handy.

I am also losing the plot. I brought back a radiator hose to replace the one from the heat exchanger to the bulkhead. Now I cannot find it anywhere. I have looked high and low for this but it remains lost. I will find it one day I am sure.

The oil seal arrived as promised and is fitted. It was not the neatest fit, but it is there. If it leaks, we will have to have another go next winter. I get the feeling that this box will be getting giddy. I am now waiting for Jimmy to come back and lift the box in. Mike is around on Thursday and I could take a leave day to re-fit things. If the box goes back in over the next two days then the vehicle will be running by the weekend and that will leave a week to get her ready for the rally. I drove past the site this morning and it is just over three miles away. That should not be too much of a problem. On the other hand, a breakdown a mile from home is still difficult.

As part of the other jobs, Tony and I replaced the track ram which was sagging. It took a very large socket set to loosen the bolts and then we had to split the track. The track is a bit tighter now and does not flop down over time as the old one did. There is only one more mud flap to make and the rest of the jobs are small. The weather is not looking good over the next few days, but I should be able to spray over the weekend. It only needs a blow over on the upper armour and a really good wash down. I think that we are on track and although we might need to work a couple of evenings, I will be at the rally.

Jimmy came up and we have put the box in. The last time we did this it was a five minute job, but this time it took three hours. I do not know why, there is little to be done. The box sits on two cradles, both semi circular, and is held there by two bands that complete the circles. We lowered the box down and it sat just a quarter of an inch too high and about half an inch too far back. This was enough to prevent the final drive couplings from aligning and also prevented the top clamps from seating. The box went up and down a few times but still it did this. We could see that it was not aligning, but could not see what was preventing it. It did not matter how much we levered it, it stayed firmly in the wrong place.

Enter Anne, carrying hot drinks. We explained what was going on and how it would not fit. Having drunk the tea, we decided to give it one more go before Jimmy had to go home. By this time it is dark and raining, but I have to say that the shed is keeping us dry and the work lights are doing their job. The box goes up about a foot, and when it is lowered it sits straight on the cradle with a satisfying clunk. Everything is in the right place but we still cannot see what prevented it from seating before or what we did differently this time. Anne leaves, convinced that she has solved the problem.

The following day Mike and I give it a really good go. By the evening the compartment is virtually finished and the bulkhead in place. There were no problems and it all went in well. It looks good as well, the new paint, albeit a little chipped now, and the cleaned up bay shows it off well. We have tried to be more methodical than last time and with luck we will have avoided the silly niggles such as hoses not being tight and small weeps from joints. I have a small weep from the brake reservoir junction that does not want to respond to treatment. It is not on the pressure side of the master cylinder and is no more than dampness so I am not too concerned. It is accessible so we can look at that later. Otherwise the box looks fine. We have finally managed to get the dip stick to read correctly and this shows a good oil level in the box. If anything it is a bit high, but this is possible as we had no real guidance last time. Once the box starts, we will take up some excess when the filter housing and oil pipes re-fill.

Last night I carried on and I think I am about an hour away from a road test. Again I tidied up some things that we did not do well last time, especially some of the wiring which needed tying in place. I am a bit concerned about the gearbox neutral indicator switch, as we forgot to mask it and the contacts got sprayed. I have cleaned them up but they are a bit of a fiddle, so I hope that they are OK. If they are not, then she will not start. It will not be a big job, but it could take time because of their location.

It is interesting to compare this box and compartment with that of the Stallion. Apart from an increase in size, the principles are the same. What you do notice is that the access is so much better in the hull. You can get all around it and removal is a straight lift rather than a tug backwards from under the front hull. The dip stick is shorter but part of the box and can be tested simply by lifting a cover. The electrical connections are combined in a multi plug which takes care of the neutral indicator as well as an oil pressure sensor. Again these are much more robust that mine. There is more sound-damping matting in the Stallion, or at least I assume that is what it is. It is a sort of quilted panel that hangs over the armour in front of the driver.

This afternoon I hope to finish the job and take her for a road test. Not very far, probably up to the silage pit and then up to the village and back. If she passes that, then it is time to put the top armour back. That should be interesting, as it finishes off the look of her. At last she will look like a proper Scorpion.

It is three o’clock on Saturday - she fired up first time and runs pretty well. I have not connected the gear linkage yet, nor fitted the pedals etc. but the gearbox turns over and I cannot see any leaks either of oil or fluids. I have turned the gearbox over in neutral which makes the steering discs turn and I can see no oil on them. The acid test will be to turn the main drive shafts over, but it will come. The over ride switch must be working, and the whole thing sounds sweet. The engine is probably running a little rich, but otherwise she is fine. So, I will have a celebratory cup of tea and then re fit the driver’s compartment. Anne is out with Helen at the moment, but when they come back we will take her up the road. Slowly!

It’s a good feeling - if this is OK, then for the first time in nearly two years we are in with a chance of getting to a rally. For the first time it is not such a rush to get ready, and although there are things to do, I feel that I have time to do them. The kettle is boiling, so I had better celebrate. I might find a chocolate biscuit to go with the tea. Push the boat out.

Two hours later and everything is in bar the seat cushions. The seat frame needed a bit of work as the runner had popped out, but otherwise apart from being a bit of a squeeze it is all in. The steering brakes will need another bleed before she runs, but this is to be expected. I am not sure of the advantages of mineral oil over brake fluid, but one of the disadvantages is that it seems to trap miniscule air bubbles in suspension. Topping up the reservoir introduces thousands of them and I am sure that they find their way to the most obscure parts of the system. Anyway, the right brake takes a good few pulls to bite and the left one a few less. We will do that after tea. It is light until about eight these nights and despite a pessimistic forecast for the week end the weather is fairly good.

Whilst I was waiting for the engine to warm up and the coolant to circulate I tried the lights. To my surprise they worked, so that is another job off my list. I think that there is probably a slightly dodgy connection somewhere, but if it is not broke, I will not fix it. It is just something to keep my eye on. Anne came back and we all went around the field. There is little right steering but the left is working. The right steering brake improves when it is pumped, so it is only air in the system. I did bleed a bit of air out, but it was not enough. There has been some improvement. One of the curses is that the steering tillers will not depress enough with the seat in, so I think that I will have to take it out to get sufficient depression to push the air out.

The engine does not want to idle and dies whenever you take your foot off it. This is only adjustment I am sure. She also feels a little flat. I stood outside and watched Anne drive around the field and she did look good. She sounded fine, a really deep and powerful bark and all the gearbox and transmission rattles cannot be heard. When you stand away you realise how impressive it looks. I know why I wanted one.

So, the list shortens by the day. I must sort out the brakes and the idle speed and then the top can go on. I will talk to Harry tomorrow for some advice on the idle speed; I have never been good at getting engines to run sweetly. It is probably one of those things - I know I am not good at it so I do not do it. Because I do not do it I do not get better. It becomes a self serving circle.

It was a good day, and I am on course for next Sunday.

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May 2004

A week to go before the first rally and things are fairly good. The right hand steering brake is still a little softer than I would want, but it is showing no sign of improvement. I flushed a litre of oil through yesterday and it made only a slight difference. I will take her on a road run today to see whether the steering is viable. I am assuming that there is an air lock somewhere in the system, probably the master cylinder, and hope that it will dislodge itself with a bit of vibration.

I bought a gadget that claims to bleed brakes by sucking the fluid through. It does, but not very well. I think that it would probably work with fluid, but it does not like the oil that the Scorpion uses. Still, a combination of that and the old fashioned way has moved some air bubbles. I need about another three inches on the tiller before I feel comfortable, but it is clearing the seat before it locks, so I can get maximum braking effect.

I have finished the mud flaps and put the small top armour on. I cannot bolt down the engine louvers until I am happy with the brakes, hence the road test.

I have added the civilian number plates and tax disc and will use the afternoon to clean off the upper surfaces. They have been gathering dust and bird droppings over the winter, so need something to make them presentable. I think that is the problem with armour, you have to climb all over it to get in and out.

I am still not sure about the track, it seems to be dropping. I am beginning to wonder whether they are shot, but in all honesty there is little that I can do about it.

That apart, we are on the little things like the pioneer stow and the cam net - those things that make it look like a real vehicle. I will then take a photo.

It is now the evening and it has been a bit of a Curate’s egg. We went for a run to the silage pit without incident, and then up to the village, all in all about three miles. She performed well, the engine improved after a time under load and the steering turned out not to be a problem. It did not steer as well to the right as it did to the left, but in ordinary terms it performed adequately. I limited the speed to about twenty miles an hour and felt comfortable at that. Once back I washed her off and she looks fine. Anne and I tried to put the top armour on but could not lift it high enough. It was almost there, it just needs a bit more strength. However, once I put her back in the shed I had a look and guess what? The gearbox still leaks. Not from the seal, but fresh oil down into the bay.

This is enough to get you down. I had left the box out for over a week on a board to try to find out where these leaks were, and she did not leak at all. I thought that it came from the badly tightened hose, but obviously I was wrong. My next culprit is likely to be the tow pump drain plug seal, but this is impossible to move with the box in. You can get access to it, but the plug is longer than the gap between the bottom of the box and the hull. Irritating to say the least.

I do not have the heart to remove the box again. It looks as if it only leaks when the oil is hot and thin, and I will see how much it loses. As I have thirty pints in it, I might just decide to top up before and after every run. I will add the job to my winter list. By then I hope to have a concrete floor to the shed and an engine crane, so it should not be the slog it was this year. I can then look at the oil hoses as well as the brake overhaul.

Driving was fun, Anne and Helen sat up top and hung on and we managed quite well. The intercom works well, although the engine noise is greater than the Ferret and the petrol pump can be heard through Helen’s microphone. The tracks are a little worn, but they seemed tight enough. Apart from some cosmetic paint, we are ready for the rally on Sunday.

Wednesday and I have three days to go. Mike came over and the top armour is on and bolted down. It looks much more three dimensional than it did, although it is much more difficult to get into. The sight hits you just where you do not want it, and all of a sudden your hands are out of sight. She behaved well and the comms etc. worked fine. With the armour on the driver’s pressel box gets in the way and everything you need is hidden from view.

That said, it dampened most of the noise and she sounded superb. The rattles have gone, and although there is a serious noise from the pressure relief valve in the gearbox, it is not too bad. I have to say that hiding everything is pretty scary as you imagine all sorts of things happening under the armour that are terrible. I also smelt odd things that worried me, so once we came back we took the radiator louvers off and had a look inside. As predicted, there was nothing that was not there before and the oil leak was none too bad. I must learn to trust it.

I suppose that is the key. I must learn that there is really nothing to worry about, and that if there is a problem we will have to sort it out. I think that I was unlucky two years ago and that these things can happen to anyone. There is no reason to think that there are any other traps awaiting me, so I should relax and enjoy it. I have to pop out later tonight and wash off the top so that I can give her a blow over tomorrow. I have some bolts to source but apart from that I will leave her. I might tie a bit of net on her for Sunday, but then again I might not. Ah, choices.

Monday - the day after the rally. It all happened as it should. I sprayed the top on Thursday and it looks very good. The black paint went on a little thinly, but it does not show. It looks really presentable. I put some netting on and the crew webbing and on Saturday I washed the wheels off.

On Sunday morning the weather looked good, a little chilly but the skies were almost blue. We loaded up and then set about getting the cars in the right place to get home. Once that was done we piled on the Scorpion and set off. It passed without a hitch; the road up to the rally is a bit steep in places, so it was into the right gear and hunker down. By the time we arrived everything was very warm, but it did not seem to matter. The haze from the engine compartment was fantastic, it shimmered for an hour or so. Once there, we parked up and drew the crowds. The return journey was a little more exciting as we followed two steam rollers home. It meant that we had to be careful with the gears and allow a big gap as the rest of the world seemed to want to kill itself in the attempt to gain a few yards by overtaking. I was stunned by this, big 4x4s zooming past on double white lines and blind bends. Even with eight tons of armour around me I felt at risk.

Once home, we went up to the silage pit to turn around as the entry back into the field can only be made from one direction. About thirty yards from the pit I changed down to turn and it all stopped. The engine was turning bit there was little drive and the smell of friction lining from the clutch. Nothing I did helped so we coasted back to safety and parked up. I assumed that the clutch had overheated as a result of the trip back in low gears, so we had tea and then went back.

When we returned there was a problem as I could not get the engine to start. There is an electrical over ride which prevents the vehicle starting when it is not in neutral, and this seemed to be engaged. It turned out to be operator trouble - yours truly, tired and flustered after a long day. Anyway, we put her back into the shed and retired happily.

Looking back over the past two years, it has been a bit of a grind and I suppose that I am older and wiser now. I am certainly older. I think that the job has been pretty well done overall, there have been frustrating times certainly, and some of the misfortunes have been of my own making. Having said all that, we have achieved something and the reaction of the public to her yesterday was a reward. There was one chap, an ex Para who served in the first Gulf conflict, who became quite misty over her and the kids just love climbing all over her. I have a few small jobs to sort out for Pendennis in a couple of weeks and then it is Weymouth. I think that Weymouth will be the validation of the effort - it was there that we broke down and there is a bit of a ghost to lay. The Weymouth weekend is always a good time and to get her there and in the parade will be something. I am confident that there will be no problems, so it is all now down to getting organised and prepared. One of the preparations will be to try to sort out recovery in advance, just to be on the safe side!

I doubt that I will write now until after Pendennis - there is a small list to be worked through and once again little time to do it. If I do not, then it is unlikely to make a jot of difference. Mike has a couple of free days next week so in order to keep up the momentum we will try to do something even if it is only the stow. There is an element of the bloke thing in it, we can potter around in the shed and rant about the world, air grievances that Anne or Jane would not understand and swap stories to confirm how hen pecked we are. If we manage to get some Scorpion done then that is a bonus.



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Together and roadable again.


Early June 2004

We are now back from Pendennis and what a weekend it was! As usual the packing and getting ready was behind schedule. It does not matter how early I start or how many lists I write, I am still throwing stuff together on the day. Space is becoming a problem in the car and small trailer that we take, so some stuff was thrown into the Scorpion. We had a road test of the Scorpion on Thursday evening and although the tracks were slightly slack, there were no immediate problems.

On the Friday Ron turned up, slightly later than scheduled, but still well within the time we planned and we set about loading. Brian had said that we could use his yard to load and turn around, but he has just converted a holiday cottage and there was some freshly laid tarmac at the entrance. He asked us to avoid putting the trailer or the Scorpion over that. This was fair enough, but it made the turning of the trailer a real job. I do not drive lorries, and looking at the yard it seemed huge. However, when you have a long trailer to turn around, you realise that it is not necessarily as straight forwards as it seems. However, we managed it, but Ron was getting a bit stressed by then. The loading operation went so easily that it passed unnoticed. I must be getting better at driving because I had no problems with the rise and fall off the ramps and placed it almost millimetre perfect. She strapped down much easier than last time and we were under way.

I enjoy riding in the cab, you can see so much more and Ron is good company. Jim came with us and we chatted about all sorts of things on the way down. The traffic was fairly heavy as it was the beginning of the holiday weekend and there was a surf weekend in Newquay. The usual snarls had developed, but the journey was completed about on time.

The off loading was as easy as the loading and with Jim on top we set off for the castle. It is always fun to driver her on the roads, and that run was no exception. It was fairly straight forward and we arrived at the gatehouse fairly confident and with a warmed up engine. I have mentioned before that I was not sure whether she would fit through the gatehouse, and turning up in front of it did not make it look any easier. We crossed the drawbridge and with an English Heritage chap in front set about it. I was always told with anything like this that you should do it as slowly as you can and then slower than that and this is what we did. We squeezed through with about an inch each side and no problems. All that remained was to get the bivi out and set up camp.

We have been having glorious weather here for the past fortnight with temperatures reaching 21 degrees. The forecast was that the weather would break over the weekend, and so it did. Just as I took the bivi out. Anne arrived and we set to putting the tents up. The rain continued fairly steadily until we had finished and then stopped. We were soaked by this stage and the temperature had dropped considerably. Our plans to find a pub with a garden and sit out for the evening meal were abandoned in favour of fish and chips in the car but this was not the end of the world. Jim and I had a few pints later so I fell asleep fairly quickly.

The following morning it rained again at about five, but after that turned into a fine day and enabled us to dry out the tents and clothes. I had a chance to look around the site and there were quite a few vehicles. There were mainly wartime Jeeps, but a fair number of Land Rovers, including two one tonners. Most of the bigger vehicles had gone to France for the D Day celebrations there, but there was a Ferret and a Snow Cat to add interest, and a Standard Tilley which was about the rarest of the vehicles there. Ken, who owns the Snow Cat, is an ex driver from the 3rd RTR and has driven Scorpion. I have been using his knowledge to make mine look authentic, and this was the first time that he had seen it. He was happy with it, and we had a go at camouflaging it. Under Ken’s guidance we managed it in about fifteen minutes and it looked absolutely spot on. The whole shape was broken up and it was much less of a procedure to do than I had managed. As a bonus the net covered the bivi and she really looked as I imagined. As the day wore on, the sun came out and it became very warm indeed. Despite sun screen my face has tanned and a colleague from work who was also there was the colour of a berry by the evening. All the clothes dried out and the tents aired so Saturday night was warm and snug. We had a barbeque in the evening and the girls enjoyed that. There seemed to be a competition between them to eat the most hot dogs! We relaxed in the evening and played cards under a camouflage net which covered the tents and which kept most of the sun off.

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The Bivi.


The Sunday was the maximum effort day, and we were inundated with visitors. I was interviewed about the Scorpion for the local radio which was a weird experience. The lady who was covering the site was actually running the show from Pendennis and had all the competition winners and requests and just wandered around talking to people. There must have been a team in the studio, but it all seemed very relaxed. The local TV had covered Friday evening, and set themselves up in a tent. This seemed much more formal with vast amounts of kit in a large van. I ran a cameraman along in the turret and then reversed and went past him again for a “mood” shot. As we did not have a TV, my fifteen minutes of fame passed unnoticed.

The Scorpion acts as a magnet for children, and I have always been fairly relaxed about letting them climb on it. There is little that they can do, but this weekend it became a bit silly. Parents were not taking responsibility and the whole thing descended a bit into farce. Someone stole a helmet and goggles from the commander’s seat and various switches were moved. This in itself is not a problem, but it adds to the time it takes to move off if we have to check every bit of the comms circuit. I cursed a fair bit on the Sunday evening when I climbed in and as my legs entered the driver’s compartment the periscope fell on them. It is a heavy lump, and the clips had been loosened. I have quite a graze and a bruise, but it could easily have been Helen. Reluctantly now, I think that the days of unlimited access are over.

I have talked this over with Martin in the past. He takes much the same stance as me, that vehicles are really there to be enjoyed and the faces of the kids who are enthralled is reward enough. It always seems strange to us when you get groups who arrive, throw a cordon around the vehicles and spend all weekend talking to each other with their backs to the public. I will think about a compromise solution. It is odd, the Scorpion seemed to be the only one that was climbed on, they do not climb on Jeeps or Land Rovers and even when I went off to go to the toilet, I came back and they were swarming all over it. Perhaps they think that it is still in service and that therefore they own it indirectly. Very odd. My thoughts at the moment are that if I make the static display more interesting then I can put a perimeter around it. Because of the weather and the location this year I did not manage to get myself sorted out properly. Next year I will. The camouflage net was a great advantage, and perhaps padlocks on the hatches and bins would help. It is a learning curve.

The Sunday evening was the highlight of the event, a concert by a Glenn Miller tribute band. They were fantastic. I am not a great fan of the music, despite the fact that we all play in a local amateur wind band, but the quality of the musicianship across the whole range of instruments was absolutely top class. In order to add to the mood, we all tried to look the part. I put on the black coveralls and drew the Scorpion up with some of the other vehicles to form a line at the rear of the grass. Helen and Evie, her friend from school, sat on top of the turret and we had a grandstand view. Ken became quite misty and said that he had tried to get his coveralls on for the do, but he had spread a little since then and they did not fit. After a firework finale the public left and we just continued to swing the lights for an hour or so until bed time. It was a very pleasant evening.

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The girls.


The following day was the parade by the 82nd infantry in Falmouth, but it started raining at about half past five in the morning and continued until about four in the afternoon. It blew a gale as well, and we were soaked to the skin by ten. Despite the weather the day before, the rain was bitterly cold and everything was soaked. Our clothes, the tents, even our breakfast suffered. We were packing up any way as the low loader was due, but it was a bit much for the girls. And I think we would have knocked it on the head anyway. We finally left about one thirty and despite heavy traffic on the way home, I was sitting in the kitchen with a cup of tea by half past five.

As Anne had taken the girls home a bit earlier, I recruited a couple of the local Light Infantry TA to act as crew when we took it back to the car park and they were very good. The only problem we had was with some old boy in a car. An oncoming car had stopped to allow us through because of a couple of parked cars on our side. We were on our way, not fast, but with full headlights and it is not a small thing. This old boy decided that he could not wait and overtook the one that had stopped and came at us. I think he then realised the difference in weight and stopped. Then he reversed, but could not go back straight because of the car he had just overtaken. He obviously could not drive backwards and steer at the same time, so we had to do all the manoeuvring to get past him. I would estimate that he was in his late sixties, and wonder whether he should be driving. He would hang his head in shame if he had heard what the crew said. Most of it was physically impossible though, even if he were more supple.

Today the house looks like a giant surplus shop. Everything has been taken out and is being dried and washed and put away. The tent had puddles of water in it, and our clothes could be wrung out. After a coolish start, the day is turning out well, and I expect that most of the really difficult stuff will be dry by this evening. It surprises me exactly how much you need to go away camping. It does not seem to make much difference whether it is for a weekend or a week, the volume is the same. It is gradually going away now, but there is no need to put it too far away as we are off to Weymouth in a fortnight. Less kit to carry I hope!

It’s now less than a week to Weymouth and we are beginning to get the kit together. We will need less in the way of green kit this time as I do not dress up apart from in the parade. I think that this is because we are actually in the town and it feels a little odd. The first year we went we put on the whole thing and found that it was OK when we were around the vehicles, but when we went into town to look for somewhere to eat, it became a little uncomfortable. This year we will put our coveralls on and change after the parade so that we stay with the vehicles in civilian clothes.

The weather has been fantastic here, into the mid twenties and above and all the wet kit has dried. The tents are now ready, as is the camouflage net, and all the camping gear has been washed and readied. The pity is that I have not been able to look at the Scorpion. We will have to give her a bit of a looking at on Friday before the drive into Weymouth. I spoke to Chris, and they take the 434 and Abbot down about half past seven, so we will tag on to them. It will provide recovery should we need it and a feeling of security. They reckon that they manage about twenty miles an hour, so it should not take more than about forty minutes for the trip. Whilst I am looking forward to this, I am also more than a little nervous. After Pendennis, there is no reason to be, but this is not a logical thing.

Otherwise it is fairly quiet. The D Day celebrations passed with widespread coverage in the media, but it seems to be generally accepted that this is the closing chapter of the last war. Whilst not wishing to belittle the efforts of those who fought, and both my parents and parents in law did, I think that we need to accept that a new world exists now and that former enemies are no longer against us. As a nation we are in a state of confusion, probably not helped by the current government. I am a firm believer in the adage that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and also that we are the product of those things that came before us. However, we cannot keep looking backwards to a golden age that might or might not have existed. I grew up in the post war years and life was not easy for my parents. My childhood was an enjoyable time and because everyone around us on the estate had nothing either, we were all in the same boat. I think that the media play up the bad side of life now and create a climate of fear.

June 2004

We are back from Weymouth now and the weather has turned completely. As I write it is bucketing down and the wind is blowing the leaves from the trees. The temperature is noticeably lower now that it was yesterday and it is almost time to put on a jumper.

So how was Weymouth? I travelled there on the Friday and arrived at the camp site about half past three. My orders were to put the tents up, and by way of consolation, I was given the stove and the makings of tea. The weather was sunny, a gentle breeze coming in off the sea and blue skies with fluffy white clouds. The site was beginning to fill up, a few military vehicles had already arrived so I set about putting the tents up. Just as the kettle boiled, Tony arrived so we had another cup of tea and headed out to the Watermans’ farm. As we arrived there, Anne, Helen and her friend Megan turned up, so the timing was perfect.

Unfortunately that is where the curse of Weymouth reared its head. I know that the tracks are probably almost worn out, but to be honest I do not know much about them. Whilst we were at Pendennis there was a Territorial Army chap who was an ex cavalry regular and he said that they needed some attention, but did not elaborate on this. The tracks on Scorpion are much the same as any other track; it consists of links held together with hexagonal pins. They have rubber pads to prevent road damage and this rubber also provides a base on which the road wheels run. Unlike the 432 series, the sprockets sit inside the edge of the track and there are two rubber carrier wheels that should lift the track up off the sprocket slightly. Again, unlike the 432 the rubber is bonded into the metal track and is not a replaceable block. The pins fit into a rubber bush which is also moulded into the track.

The pads on mine are worn down very badly and they do leave a small mark on the road. I am beginning to find it difficult to tension them, which I have put down to stretch between the links. Whilst this is not ideal, the limited amount of road work that I do means that they will probably last another year or so. At least, that is what I thought. Imagine how I felt when Leon pointed out that one of the pins was bent and had elongated the bush in a link. He felt that it would be risky to take it on the road. This was not a problem as we had a spare pin, so having undone the nut, I set about track bashing. Nearly an hour later the pin had not moved. When I say it had not moved, I really mean that. We took the nut off the other end and carried on and again after an hour there was no movement. Now Leon is a very big lad, used to physical work on the farm and has arms as thick as my legs and yet he made no impression on this pin whatsoever. We moved the Scorpion into the yard and attacked the end of the pin with a gas cutter. It cut the burred, threaded bit off, but still it would not move. In the end we decided that it would be better to take the two links off and press the pin out on the bench. This is what we did, but by now it is ten o’clock and dark as your hat. I say that this is what we did, we did take the links off, but no matter how much pressure we put on the pin it did not come out. At one stage it was subjected to fifty tons per square inch and with us all cowering behind hard objects it still did not budge. I was then faced with a dilemma. Although the pin appeared to be firmly in situ, it was not really an option to replace the links. The fixing thread had been cut off and goodness knows what all the banging and pressing had done to the strength of the pin. Obviously without the links the thing would not go, and more worryingly, it was looking more and more immobile. The only option was for me to go back home and pick up a bit of spare track to replace the links.

So, this is what I did. I arrived home about one thirty, grabbed the track, had a couple of hour’s kip and set off again. I managed to get another hour asleep in a car park and then we put the links back in. They were not the easiest thing to do but, thanks to Leon and his muscles, the job went pretty well. Apart from muscles, he also had a set of 432 track clamps which made the job easier. I have a CVR(T) clamp, which is a fixed, square job that clamps into both sprocket holes and pulls the whole track forward. The 432 clamps are separate and can be used to pull the track not only together, but can give adjustment in the side to side plane. This allowed for a finer adjustment than mine, so I must look for some.

Comment from Doug here: From your description and my own observations, the only difference between the Scorp track and that on M-113s is that you can't replace road pads, in all other respects except size they are the same.
Now, for comments on your track problems - been there done that. Even down to putting the stupid thing in a 75 tonne press and scaring the you know what out of ourselves when the 2 links shot out of the press!
Pre-safety cage days.
My conclusion is that if after you have made sure you have pulled the track to the correct angle with FV-432 clamps or 2 US track clamps (forget the Scorp one, not worth bothering with), you then give the pin say 5 hefty bashes and if the pin punch is still flying back from the pin and it is making that solid noise that signifies steel on unmoving steel, then forget it and move on to the next link. The only thing you will achieve by not giving up is to hurt yourself or someone else. Been there done that, it was me that got hurt. Somehow my finger got between the punch and the hammer, it split open. I managed to push the meat back into my finger - where it stuck out of the split - and then got as far back into the shed as the doorway before I fainted, woke up on the floor. Luckily I had felt increasingly bad on the way in and had sat down on the door step before passing out.
Presumably I must have gone down in slow motion as I only had a sore finger and not a sore head aswell.
As the Scorp is not amphibious like the M-113, your track pins haven't had the added insult of being swum, your weather and puddles etc probably equate to the same thing. Water ingress in between the pins and bushes. Effectively the pins rust into the bush. Now, I don't know about HM Gov, but the Aussie army in its infinite wisdom used a certain lubricant of yank spec on assembly - it was hygroscopic. Yep, they used water absorbing lubricant on parts subject to immersion. Which is the reason I have worked on dozens of links that the pins won't move for any force on this earth! The stupidity of the military never ceases to amaze me. There sits perfectly good links with a totally stuffed link forever attached to them because the stuffed one can't be removed!
Sigh.
Needless to say, if I did manage to get a pin out, it is cleaned and replaced using standard grease. Have wondered about using Neverseize, but never got around to it.
Personally, I think you should have at least one set of good track on the vehicle, one set in the shed and your existing track as spares.

If the Scorp has the same lost track characteristics as an M-113, then the rule is power off, let the thing coast to a stop unless not doing so will result in some event worse than a roll over or crash. ie, don't try to steer or brake unless there is no option.
There is a lot to be said for keeping the speed down with a tracked vehicle.................
Failing that, my game plan is to pull a very little amount of braking so that I go between things rather than through them.......... Back to Richard...........

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It was then quite nerve-wracking. We were faced with a ten mile drive into Weymouth mid-morning on a Saturday with all the crowds and traffic that entailed. On the basis that if it all went to rats then the 434 would bail us out, we set off. I have to say that she performed superbly. I kept the speed down to a steady 20mph and we just bounced along. The tracks made a drumming noise and the engine throbbed, but there were really no difficulties. We ended up on the front by about eleven o’clock and then sat with a cup of tea and stopped shaking.

Speaking to the 434 night guard it was as well that we did not follow plan A and leave her at the front overnight on Friday. They were woken up at about two in the morning by someone trying drunkenly to climb in the back of the Abbot where they were sleeping. When he was challenged he threw a wing mirror that he had ripped off at them and ran away. Another pointless incident of vandalism, it does make you wonder.

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The FV-434.


We sorted ourselves out and went back to the campsite for lunch and then re-arranged our cars. This was almost a theme over the weekend; wherever we were the cars seemed to be in the wrong place. Anyway, we brought the A frame back into Weymouth so that if it all went horribly wrong then we had the means to self recover. After tea we brought the Scorpion back up to the camp site and then went out for a meal.

I was beginning to relax a bit by now, it is a real blast to drive her through town and she seemed to be going well. Weymouth drivers have been a bit lively in the past, but this year we had no problems at all. Even the lights seemed to be on green for us. We were tempted to have another go at the left turn that proved to be our undoing a couple of years ago but being slightly superstitious we decided against it.

The following day was the parade, and we set off in full kit with the girls under instruction to wave like demons at anything. Tony commanded the run down and it was a breeze. I am beginning to get more confident with her and understand her limitations in terms of turning and acceleration. The gear changes are violent, especially between third and fourth, and the whole vehicle bucks. I am told that it is worse from the top and that from outside it looks pretty awesome. I did catch a glimpse of us in a couple of shop windows and it does look special.

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Lined up for the parade.


We formed up in a car park and from then on it was hurry up and wait. There was some spectacular machinery there, including a Chaffee, a Sherman and a Sexton as well as the Abbot, the 432 and us. The Chaffee was as near perfect as any thing I have seen, it just purred when started and there was not a squeak or rattle from any part of it. The commander was known as “Oddball” as he bore an uncanny resemblance to the Donald Sutherland character in Kelly’s Heroes. I assume that this is deliberate and that he does not mind being referred to as that.

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M-24 Chaffee and crew.


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Abbot.


The sexton belongs to a local fort and usually turns up. A few years ago it was a little unreliable, but this year it sounded really sweet. The Sherman looked like an early one, although wartime tanks are not my specialist subject. I am making the assumption based on a small gun and bolted together front armour. To hear these radial engines roaring along was something else, and made me wonder how on earth any element of surprise was maintained. The starting procedure is a little scary; it seems to consist of opening the back doors and turning it over by hand and then hitting the button. It roars, coughs and spits and then settles down to a slightly quieter tick over. The worrying bit is the man stationed at the door with a fire extinguisher. I am told that the cylinders at the bottom can flood and this can catch fire. Another reason to avoid wartime armour.

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Sexton.


By way of smaller vehicles there were Champs, a Dingo, a half track, several Jeeps naturally, a couple of Tilleys and various other nicely turned out exhibits. There was a group of re-enactors who marched as Americans in front of the vehicles and they made an interesting sight. I have mentioned this before, but as with the Germans last year at Beltring, they really looked the part. As Weymouth was a major embarkation port for US forces on D-Day, it was a rather poignant tableau.

As well as the Veterans and the vehicles, there were bands ranging from bugle and drum through military to pipe, all playing their hearts out. At the end of the parade we were formed up and they all played a set. It was a really good afternoon.

But back to the parade. Once we were given the order to start, we left the car park and then started the queue. It took a couple of waits to get to the beginning of the route, but once we were on it was the same as ever. The crowds lined the route, cheering and clapping and the girls waved like mad. Russ commanded so that Tony could take photos, and we moved along at a fairly sedate pace. We came to a halt opposite the saluting dais and waved to the dignitaries. As I was stuck in the driver’s compartment, I smiled. After that we crawled down to the far end of the sea front and parked up in the car park. Job done.

She performed well. The day was hot and I was worried that it would prove too much for the engine. I need not have worried, as she did not miss a beat. The oil leak in the gearbox was apparent as the oil heated up and thinned as a consequence, so I am sorry for the little puddle. I will try to rectify this once she is back here. Again, we had more tea and a calming sit down before we went for a wander.

Come four o’clock we all dispersed. I watched the Sherman and Chaffee leave by low loader (What a beauty!) although by this time the Sherman was suffering. I had heard that it had been a race against time to get it there and that she was in the middle of the restoration. I know exactly how that feels, but she seemed to have developed either a plug fouling or timing problem and she was banging and spitting. The only way that they could get the engine to run was by gunning it, and this ended in some spectacular back fires. Once Weymouth had calmed down, we set off in company with the abbot and the 434 and had an uneventful ride back to the farm. After that it was back to the camp site, pack up and go home. Two tired little people and a few rather weary adults.

So, what was the verdict? Looking at the parade first, it was very good. There was a good balance and mix of vehicles and apart from a few hold ups at the end of the sea front, it worked well. As always, the Dorset MVT are very friendly and certainly make you feel welcome and although the camp site was more crowded than usual, there was plenty of space and no rowdy behaviour. Whilst we were waiting for the traffic to die down we were chatting to the Watermans and we all felt that 2004 was a special event. The council will no doubt look at the future of the parade, but the crowds that are present must spend money in the town and do not necessarily seem to be linked to D-Day veterans. There are increasing numbers of veterans from later conflicts who take part, so we all hope that they will come to a positive decision.

Our performance is difficult to assess. We made it, so that has to get us at least eight. We looked good and managed to rise above the track problem, so I think overall we did well. By my standards, the main thing was that we were safe and that the girls enjoyed themselves and we achieved both of those targets. I enjoyed myself in a masochistic way, although the driving of the vehicle is more stressful than I imagined. I still think that it is a lack of confidence, both in me and in the vehicle. I am now worried about the tracks, and especially the risk of one of them breaking. I have been given dire warnings about the consequences of such an event, and it fills me with dread.

On the positive side, I met a chap who had been a CVR(T) driver with the Life Guards and he told tales of driving them in the mountains of Bosnia without too much incident and the conditions there were much harsher than any that I am likely to encounter. I think that I have just to approach the task in a sensible manner. Each year the Scorpion will get better and any weaknesses in the safety systems will be worked out. I have managed to get the engine and gearbox reliable; the steering and brakes are working efficiently and we have good communications between the crew. I have learned a little more about track maintenance and what to look for and know that it is not beyond me. I will need to talk to the Alvis crowd in more detail and come away with a safe system of work and checks that will put my mind at rest. We will then have to adhere to the maintenance schedule and make sure that the functional tests and driver’s tasks are properly done. I will then be able to relax and enjoy it.

Whilst this might seem to be a little negative and perhaps too introspective, the fun does outweigh this. Overall the reaction was incredibly positive and even allowing for my intimate knowledge of her and all her faults; I thought she looked pretty neat. Co-incidentally, at an army camp just up the road from the camp site there was a lonely Scimitar. Although she was too far away from the fence for us to reach it with spanners we took a photo. If you compare her to the Scorpion, I am pretty pleased to think that they are indistinguishable. I think that I have got the overall effect pretty close to the real thing.

Now I must start organising the next show and clear up after this one. I have a shed load of washing to do and will have to pack away things that I will not need for a while. I have to ring Dave to find out how I can register for the Town and Country and how we will get it up there. I also need to start casting around for track prices. All this before England play Portugal tonight, because once it kicks off no-one will answer the phone. I had better make a start, but before I do: one last cup of tea.

End June 2004

After Weymouth it is a bit of an anti climax. Work has been busy and the Scorpion is still in Weymouth. I have spoken to Dave and he has put me on to someone who knows how to register for Stoneleigh so there is some movement there. The chap who might be able to get it up there for me is away this week, so I think that I will get her brought here by Ron and then we can see what happens after that.

It has not been all idleness, I have found out a couple of things that will help long term and have also found a couple of bits. I have arranged to get some other stuff ready to be collected at Beltring, so the time is not wasted.

The first piece of information that I have discovered may well settle the weird and intrusive noise that I get from the gearbox. I might have mentioned this before, but ever since I have had her, there has been this noise. It is a low growling which we have always put down to the pressure relief valve working. It is nothing that can affect the performance of the gearbox, but it is something that sounds dreadful. Tony took a small video of the Scorpion at Weymouth on his flash digital camera, and you could hear this noise at about thirty feet over the engine. According to someone who knows, the correct diagnosis is oil cavitation. The symptoms I have are spot on and the cure is quite simple. Cavitiation is, according to Paul at work who is an ex Navy sonar operator, a phenomenon caused when propellers cut through water. They produce bubbles on the leading edge and these bubbles then leave the propeller and create a noise. It is a big deal in warships and submarines and the Navy take it very seriously as it increases the detection range by miles and can also identify the class of vessel. Their solution is to push compressed air through the shaft and out along the blades, but apparently in the gearbox the answer is PTFE additive. There are a number that can be used, but I need one designed for automatic gearboxes so that it does not adhere to the friction linings. Before I do that, however, I will need to sort out the oil leak. Again this looks like a PTFE solution, and I will try to wrap tape around the threads of the plug to prevent oil migrating along them and out past the seal.

I have put out feelers for some track and now must wait to see what happens. I have also been thinking about the transport side. Ron is reliable and this works well, but it is not in my control and I feel uneasy because of this. I think that ultimately I will need to be self sufficient and that the sooner I start the better. I had considered a rigid lorry as the licence is easier to obtain and the size is about right. Ron has a beautiful low loader and she looks a little lost on this. But I am now wondering whether it is easier to buy a trailer and then look for a tractor unit. Two things have prompted me to look at this; the first is the fact that Ron bought the unit we travelled to Pendennis in for five hundred pounds at a liquidator’s auction and the second is that one of the big surplus dealers has some ex-army trailers that could do. They have a beauty, a purpose built recovery trailer that will take seventeen tons with ramps, a diesel winch a fold down neck and brand new. The problem is that it is over nine thousand pounds, but the principle is there. I might not need something as flash as this but the thought is that there are any number of one man bands with tractor units but very few with low loaders. If I get a low loader, then I have more choice over the tractor unit. I will look into this more closely. One big advantage of the trailer is that it does not need tax or insurance, so apart from maintenance and testing, there is little ongoing cost. In time I can go for the licence and then see what happens.

On the silly side, I have found some kinetic recovery ropes and a lifting bar. The ropes are part of the Scorpion chic, if you look at any picture you will see them running from the front eye shackles up over the wading screen lip. Absolutely de rigeur for the best dressed vehicles. The lifting bar is the real thing and consists of a flat steel bar with a shackle on the top and four lifting eyes below. These fit the gearbox and engine and allow the units to be lifted whilst remaining in balance. I think that the price is a little high, but if it is likely to make the job easier then I am in a mind to go for it. It is one of those things that you might not need, but if you have one it could make a difficult job less of a challenge. The last time we replaced the box it took ages to locate and I wondered then whether it was because we had it lashed up rather than properly level. It is also a safety thing, which gets my vote every time.

Again the question of the infrastructure raises its head. It seems that to keep armour on the road, or even in the shed for that matter, you need more than just a tool set. I am seriously considering buying an old tractor, not a lorry but a real agricultural machine. A friend has acquired an old Massey Ferguson and I think that with a front loader, this would do the job for me. I will need to find out exactly how much the gearbox weighs but I am told that I should be able to lift half a ton with the tractor and I doubt that it weighs much more than that. I doubt that I will be able to tow her with the tractor, but I might be able to push her around over short distances. What is most important is that the tractor works and does not become a chore in its own right.

I am sure that there will come a time when the Scorpion is reliable and finished and all that will be required will be to take her to rallies and bask in the glory of an admiring public. During the winter I will sit in my nice, dry shed and drink tea whilst listening to the radio and pottering about on those odd jobs that always work and leave your hands clean. An ex-serviceman at Weymouth told me that his unit had changed a complete squadron’s tracks from winter to summer in two and a half hours and that included making the track from links of ten and breaking the old one down into links of ten and labelling them before they were put away. I was impressed, but still do not know the difference between winter and summer tracks. I assume that there are more aggressive tracks for the winter, possibly including spikes, but I have never seen any. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to drive a tank in snow, not only the slippery ground but the fact that your head sticks up out of the thing and the wind catches you full on. The same chap who told me of the track change said that his unit had lost two vehicles when they sank. One had a bridge go under it but the other was being chased on an exercise and headed off onto a bog whereupon it sank. He also said that he was on exercise with the German Army when they were surprised by a Leopard. This thing came at them so he put it into reverse and shot backwards. The ground was pretty clear, so he went up through the gears until he was in top going backwards at about fifty miles an hour. His problem was that the Leopard was actually gaining on them. He decided to turn it around to face the right way and by the time he had done that the German passed him. I will not repeat his story about a good night that the crew had resulting in all three being sick over the side the following morning. It apparently takes a certain amount of skill to avoid parking the breakfast in the engine louvers and getting your own back thanks to the fan. Next year at Weymouth I might add that final touch of realism.

I have been busy sorting out kit and putting it away today. I came across the boots I wore over the weekend, a pair of second hand British Army size tens. Nothing remarkable about that, they are fairly modern and quite comfortable. However, when I came to put them away I noticed that the soles are completely destroyed. It looks as if they have melted, although they are not all gooey but huge chunks have broken off. This is very strange, we did not fill up with petrol at all, and the uppers are pristine. I do not remember standing in anything that could have produced that sort of result, so I wonder whether it was the heat in the footwell. I suppose that it could have been the heat rising from the engine after the drive down from Dorchester or from the camp site that cooked them whilst I was standing on the front, but what ever it is they are totally stuffed. Another mystery to be solved by those that know. I had the answer to another mystery today and I should have bought a lottery ticket as a result, but I have not so I expect my numbers will come up.

Back last November Anne noticed that she had lost the diamond from her engagement ring. Whilst I had spent as much as I could at the time I bought it, it could not be described as huge or the sort of thing that Elizabeth Taylor would wear. As she had no idea when or where it had gone missing, we assumed that it was lost forever. Anyway, as I was cleaning the bedroom (oh yes, I am a new man as well) I pulled a chair out to vacuum behind it when a small sparkle caught my eye. On investigating what I assumed to be a bit of glass or plastic I found the diamond. Now the odds of the mounting failing indoors as opposed to outdoors must be multiplied by the odds of it not getting noticed before it was hoovered and then by the odds of the light catching it just at that moment. It just shows that sometimes the toast lands butter side up.

I wonder sometimes what part luck plays in the vehicle world. What makes a component fail at that time and what ensures that there is nothing else on the road when it happens? Conversely, what cruel fate ensures that people are in the wrong place at the wrong time when something dreadful happens? My mother was very superstitious and I still find myself getting stressed by new shoes on the table, one magpie and broken mirrors. When I was young, if you saw an ambulance you had to hold your collar until you saw a dog. Anne thinks I was raised in the backwoods, but you do not question fate. We went to Paris some years ago and on the way back we arrived at the Terminal in good time. So much so that the check in offered us seats on an earlier flight. As we were asked whether we wanted this, Anne said yes and I said no. Anne prevailed, but I was nervous all the way over. My fear was that should the earlier plane crash, then I would have put myself into a situation that need not have occurred. Anne, ever the advocate pointed out that if the plane crashed then it was fate that made me swap and it would obviously be the way my end was intended. I am still not sure.

This has really nothing to do with armour at all. I am bored and have nothing to do until the Scorpion comes back. Tony from the Midlands has not rung about Stoneleigh, so I cannot ring Ron. If he has not rung by the weekend I will get her back anyway. I am chasing a gun guard from a dealer as well as a host of other stuff, all to be collected at Beltring. I have to make some lists and send some e-mails this weekend. It is all small stuff for the inside, so it needs careful looking at to ensure that I do not miss anything or get two! I also need to replace the crew helmet which was stolen and my boots that fell apart and which Anne has already consigned to the dustmen.

Tonight I hope to have a look at my lists and see exactly what I need. I think I will also start to work out what I will need in terms of consumables for next year. I have bought six spark plugs and the filters on both the gearbox and engine are new, so I really only need points to have a complete set. I might look to buy the next set if I see them cheaply enough.

Next year I will look at the radio fit. I have bought the small boxes over the past couple of years but do not have the radios as yet. Clansman is rapidly being phased out now and the price is already beginning to drop, so I think that I should be able to find a bargain. I have been offered a 353 set for £150 working, which is pretty fair. I have not thought about the second radio yet, I am taken with the idea of a 352 which is a manpack but fitted to the vehicle and with an amplifier. I will have to make enquiries as these are used in infantry support and I am not sure that 4 RTR would do that. I think that it will probably be two 353’s.

Either way it will be an expense. As the plans for Stoneleigh take shape, I am beginning to get some picture of the cost of transporting armour. It is looking slightly dearer than I thought, but I think that this is as a result of recent fuel price rises. The cost seems to be working out at about a pound a mile, which is considerable. By this I do not mean that I am being charged an excessive amount, but that movement is a dear business. I have a feeling that next year we will have to limit the number of non local rallies, but this year I am determined to make the best of it. Getting to Stoneleigh and back is likely to cost about £500 and the trips already made will probably touch that as well. Viewed as a hobby, this is getting a bit of a drain but I have to look at it as a one off. Next year I might limit us to Weymouth, especially if I have to replace the track.

I think that this is another lesson with armour, and especially tracked armour. It is also made worse by the fact that I am operating alone. There is certainly room on the low loader for another vehicle, as the Scorpion is not that large or heavy, and sharing the cost would obviously bring it down. Getting to Stoneleigh for £250 is a reasonable deal. The problem is that there is not that much armour around down here and the shows I want to go to are not necessarily available to others. Weymouth is an invitation only show and Stoneleigh, although a good show, is attractive to me because it is local to Anne’s mother. Pendennis next year could be done differently, as there is someone in the club who has bought a transporter, but it will depend on his availability and willingness to help. This is another series of imponderables that I might have been better taking into account when I bought her.

In the post this morning Russ has sent me a photo from Weymouth that Roland Groom from the Tank Museum took. As always Roland has taken a superb photo, and I realise now how impressive she looks. Unfortunately for copyright reasons I cannot add the photo to the site, but it is a good record of the weekend. I do look a slightly nervous driver though.

The weather has closed in again and we are in the teeth of gales. A bright spot in all of this is the fact that a pair of swallows has made a nest in the shed. I hope that they will not be disturbed by the Scorpion, and vainly that they will not crap all over my tank. I have talked Stoneleigh over with Anne and I really feel that it is too much money for us this year. It is a wonderful show, but it is static and five hundred pounds is a little much to spend solely to fuel my ego. I will still go as a visitor, but next year might be better to take the Scorpion. I might save up for it and start the plans earlier. I have also bought a drum kit and the guilt meter is reading high at the moment. It’s a nice kit though, so whilst I am banging away I can think of the Scorpion. A sort of compromise if ever there was one.

Bob from the office is away at a show this weekend. It is the Devon equivalent of Pendennis, and set beside the Dart Valley Railway at Buckfastleigh. The setting is picturesque and they get up to all sorts of fun and games with the railway. Bob came to Pendennis as an Airborne soldier from the Royal Ulster Rifles (he is from that part of the world) and has a display that features an unexploded bomb. He is like me, enjoys small victories, and came into the office the other day with a small brass thing that looked a bit like a spring balance but about the size of rifle bullet. It has a screwdriver end on one end and a pierced, pointed bit on the other. It turns out that it is an armourer’s tool to adjust trigger pull. He knows much more about this sort of thing than I do, and spotted it in a local flea market. He also spotted a wartime glider pilot’s helmet, complete with the leather ear fittings and the padding, which the dealer believed to be a despatch rider’s hat and did not want much money for it. Whilst there is a part of me that feels you should deal on a level playing field, dealers are professionals and ought to research what they have. I am amazed by the amount of stuff that there is locally. A couple of small stalls have opened up and Bob has had a field day. It is all a bit old for me, but impressive that it has survived so long. He found a 1939 dated whistle with the leather fitting intact for only £2 the other day. Prices like that make it all worthwhile.

There is still no movement on the tank. I have not been able to get hold of the person responsible for Stoneleigh, so the trip is really off now. I think that it is better that I find out all about it this year with a view to doing it next.

It has been Services week in Plymouth and Anne and I visited it on Sunday. It was very impressive, but unfortunately I forgot my camera. By way of armour they had a Warrior, a Striker a 439 and a Challenger 2 and there were some amazing displays by aircraft, helicopters and motorcyclists. Mike’s son had been there earlier as he is considering a career in the Royal Armoured Corps. If that means a chance to drive a Challenger, then sign me up.

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Still in service Scimitar.


I did not get a chance to climb inside any as it would have looked a little sad to be the tallest and oldest child in the queue (Doug - been there done that, it is embarrassing, but more often than not you learn something at the price of your pride). Like a total anorak I poked around the tracks and road wheels to see whether I could learn anything. The first thing I learned was that Challenger tracks are HUGE. The road wheels are wider than my car wheels, and look almost like something from a formula one car. The warrior tracks are similar, in that they seem much less aggressive than CVR(T) track. They are akin to the 432 family, whereas mine have holes and sharp corners. The Striker was interesting. I had assumed that they were all withdrawn from service, as it seemed a few years ago that everybody had them, but this had been through the diesel Life Extension Program. It did not look in brilliant condition, certainly below the screen line, and in terms of road wheel condition and general drive train did not seem to be much better than mine. There was more meat on the rubber track pads but they seemed to sag and sit no different to mine. Having spoken to someone who knows, he feels that mine have probably lost their rigidity at the pin bush and could run out of true. It is something that you do not notice until you see them run and the track moves in the horizontal plane. Certainly I thought that the paintwork and fittings were better on mine. As far as the Challenger goes, it is a beast of a thing. The sides are just slabs, there is nothing that appears to be bolted on and the scale is such that men are dwarfed by it. I can see that something so big has an intimidating presence, not only because of its bulk, but because you cannot see the crew properly. I think that is always a psychological advantage for the tank, it makes it seem like something from War of the Worlds.

The highlight had to be a display by a Chinook. We used to live in Surrey and often saw them flying from a local air force base, but they were always at altitude and plodding along sedately. The one at the display was very close, a maximum of five hundred feet I would think, and the pilot threw it around like I had never seen. I did not realise that they were so manoeuvrable. It twisted and turned, stopped, went backwards, but the crowning part was a vertical drop of about a hundred feet and a steep pull out. Looking at it, I was amazed that the whole crew did not end up squashed against the inside of the cockpit glass. It was not a steep dive; it was a real vertical plunge with the body of the helicopter at right angles to the sea. I have never seen anything like it. The pilot was obviously showing off, but what a performance.

Andy said that the Challenger had moved earlier in the day and that this was something to watch. You could see the CVR(T) marks on the tarmac and they had obviously been doing neutral turns. They had chewed some of it up, and there were a lot of white marks similar to those that I get. I have never done a neutral turn; I am told that they strain the box and tracks if they are done on tarmac and in all honesty I have never needed to. If I can find some loose gravel one day then I might be tempted. Again, this is me being a little over cautious.

That is about it. I am preparing for Beltring, making lists and confirming arrangements. The weather looks good, so what could go wrong?

Beltring 2004

What a weekend! It is Monday and I have to get my stuff unpacked and washed. Anne is still up in the midlands with her mother, so I can play around a bit today. If she knew that I had a tent liner in the bath overnight to wash it, she might not be very happy. Anyway, it is washed (you should have seen the colour if the water) and put out to dry, so by the time they return it will be sweet smelling and all folded up.

That is jumping ahead a little. We arrived at the show about midday on the Friday, and although there was a slight queue to get in, it was well managed and we parked up not far from the ground itself. I find that this is important as if you are to carry anything away, then a trek does not help. We were near enough to make a trip back with something, put it in the boot and then go back. We went back for a sit down as well without feeling that it was too far.

The first thing that hits you is the scale of the place. We have a seventeen acre field next to us, and I would estimate the size of the rally to be three times that. The rows of vehicles went on for miles. The stalls did the same. It is just the biggest thing that you could imagine and then some.

I had arranged with a couple of traders to collect things there, which I think is the best way to do it. It helps them when they pack and it saves me from poking through stuff on the off chance that they might have brought it. They also know that they will not have to pack it up and take it back. There is something in it for everyone that way. We made contact with them and sorted that out and I had a good deal. I think that I saved enough on carriage to pay for the entrance charge, so apart from the drive and the hotel, I reckon it was a couple of free days.

As we were mooching around working out what to do next, the decision was made when I heard a familiar sound. Call me an anorak if you will, but each vehicle has its own sound and CVR(T) are no different. I just caught sight of the back end of a Scorpion moving towards the arena so we followed. As it turned out there were two, a Scorpion and a Sabre. I have met the owner briefly, he is local to the Alvis group but we did not get a chance to chat this time. Both his vehicles are superb. I think I recognise Dave’s skill in the paint job, but both mechanically and cosmetically they are something to behold.

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Scorpion.


We spent a little time looking at the ring, and watched a collection of wheeled armour do its thing. There were dozens of Ferrets, a couple of Pigs and unusually three Foxes. I have always liked the Fox and for a time considered buying one as an alternative to the Scorpion. They were not a happy vehicle in service as they suffered from some instability because of a high centre of gravity. In the end, they were withdrawn and either cannibalised to keep the CVR(T) fleet going whilst the diesel project went ahead, or had their turrets removed to form Sabre. It is a pity, as it is a really attractive vehicle and has a considerable presence. Tony voted it the one he would most like to take away. It was good to see a number of Ferrets together, in fact that was one of the strengths of Beltring, the ability to see more than one example of the vehicles.

This year there did not seem to be many larger wheeled vehicles. I saw a couple of Saracens in the lines, and a Saladin, but nothing moving. There were an awful lot of Jeeps, and almost as many Land Rovers, but they seemed more in context as the scale of the show was bigger. I think that if you see half a dozen or more Land Rovers together as we had at Pendennis, then it forms a high proportion of the total vehicles there. The Ex Military Land Rover Association alone must have had over a dozen, but they just blended into a good display. The rest of the day was spent wandering around drooling over the vehicles and the standard of the displays. Some of the re-enactment displays were out of this world; in particular the Vietnam encampment and the first Gulf War display. The Germans as ever were so authentic that it was scary. I still have a difficulty with the SS re-enactors, but that is my problem and I am sure that they do it for the best of motives.

One interesting thing we saw was at the Gulf War display. There were a couple of chaps there with the gearbox out of a Spartan busily hammering away. It looked as if they were doing the same job as we recently did, but under rather more of a field condition. They were too busy to be disturbed, but I did not get the impression that it was part of the display, more a case of necessity.

There was another Scorpion there, fully kitted out as a first Gulf War vehicle and very authentic. It had that in service look, everything looked used and there was nothing unnecessary on it. The crew were dressed the part, and the whole thing gave a good impression. As the arena was incredibly dusty, it added something when it moved. I think they gave the best driving display around the ring, as it almost left the ground on a couple of the bumps. Again, when you watch these vehicles being thrown around with a bit of space it is surprising what they can do.

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Gulf War Scorpion.


The following day we decided to hit the stalls and finish looking at the static vehicles. The stalls were incredible, although I found that I actually bought things from the people that I knew. I do not think that this is a reflection on the other stallholders, I think that it is because the smaller stalls tend to hold more wartime stuff. There were some incredible things for sale; German items that have survived not only the war, but the intervening sixty years. Given that a large amount was made with substitute materials, this is no mean feat. The prices were difficult to assess. I felt that by and large they were OK, some items such as tents seem to have gone through the roof which might be down to the pressure from aid agencies for tentage throughout the world. A 9x9 which cost us about three hundred pounds in 1999 was double that now. I did try to buy some small clips for the Scorpion. These hold the external stowage on and attach to elastic straps. They are a pressed steel fitting much like a small buckle. I chose ten and expected to pay a pound each. Imagine my surprise when he wanted two pounds fifty each. Needless to say we did not strike a deal.

Looking overall, I felt that the UK dealers did not ask for more at Beltring than they do at any other show. There were some show specials, and I profited from one, but some alleged show specials were exactly the same as prices shown in adverts in magazines. I do not think that there are the bargains that there used to be, but every one has to make a living. I am not a great one for haggling. I ought to take some lessons. My approach is that if I think that the marked price is fair, I will pay it. If it is not, then I walk on.

There were some vehicles for sale. Ferrets seem to be creeping up again, whereas a very tidy Saracen seemed cheap by comparison. Withams had a Sabre for sale, which had been sprayed over with the non slip finish. I do not know whether it sold, but it was the first time I had seen an artexed tank. They also had a Combat Engineer Tractor, one of a few that the MoD released this year. It is a beast, much bigger than you think and fascinating because of its rarity. I did try to persuade Anne that it could also do the garden, but she was not impressed. The bucket was huge; I have no idea what it holds in terms of cubic footage, but I reckon that it would take me over an hour with a shovel to fill it. I have no doubt that it would be the answer to my gearbox lift. Another answer to the lift would have been a huge French crane that the NLBA had along. I am told that it weighed thirty tons and to be honest it looked like it could. It had a fair bit of Gallic charm, but to my mind did not look as nice as the Militant recovery. It looked, as do a lot of French military vehicles, to be dated. The crew cab was big enough to hold a dance in, and the driver must have sat at least ten feet from the ground. Totally awesome.

On a similar topic, there was a Russian thing that defied description. I am told that it is a BAT or something like that, but it is basically a tank chassis with a bonnet and cab and the biggest bulldozer blade I have ever seen. It is not just a bulldozer blade, it is to steal from Alberto y los trios Paranoias a “heads down mindless no nonsense” bulldozer blade. Apparently the owner brought it from Poland but I am not sure how. I would have loved to see it on the ferry.

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The "Thing".


All in all a good weekend. I have some treasures, a few good memories and some decent photos. Now provided that I pack them away carefully, I might just get away with it.

November 2004

It is five months since Weymouth and I do not know where the time has gone. Work has been busy, fate has thrown a few bad balls domestically and it has been enough just to keep my head above water. I have sold the Ferret, unexpectedly really, to a chap in Hastings who has made a really good job of tidying her up. He has got into it in such a big way that he has bought another for his wife! Good fun, and it is nice to see the Ferret go to a good home.

The biggest difficulty has been getting the Scorpion back from Weymouth. As I write, it is still there, although she is due to be picked up today. The difficulty has been with Ron, who is a smashing chap, but has finally realised that at seventy odd the life of a long distance lorry driver is not for him. I think that it has all been getting a bit much, and my job has fallen off the radar. Anyway, I understand that he has sold his rig and is retiring to concentrate on his ploughing matches and vintage tractors. I wish him well, as he has helped me out considerably over the past couple of years and he is always good company. He has sold his trailer to Adrian who is more local to me, and who will bring her back. That is much easier, as he only lives about twenty miles away so local rallies will be easier and cheaper. He collected the Scorpion from Pendennis so he knows how it works and is very nice.

It has been frustrating, there are jobs to be done and she has been outside when there is a perfectly good shed built for her here. Never mind, there is always the winter and I suppose that we are not too far behind. I am more optimistic about transport next year, so that is a positive thing.

It is a little later and she has arrived. It was all as promised, Adrian arrived at the docks at about eight and we moved her into the freight compound overnight. The following morning Andy, Tony (the modeller) and Steve arrived and we gave her a swift once over. I was surprised at how little was wrong. The paint was a little tatty, but as she was only blown over I was not over concerned. It is only lifting on some of the louvers and more out of the way places. There is some water in the hull and engine bay, but this will bail out. The only real fault is that the lights do not work. I am sure that this is a minor problem and we will have a look at that in due course. The gearbox was filled and other levels checked, and we set off. The plan was to go in convoy from the docks to the centre of Plymouth, about two miles and this was what happened. Tony went the wrong way initially, but we recovered and arrived on time. The rest of the day was good fun. The weather was terrific for November, warm sun and no breeze, so as long as I kept my fleece on, it was pleasant.

I do not think that we collected as much this year as we have done on others. We had been on a steep upward curve year on year, and last year collected over three thousand pounds, but people did not seem as interested this year. We wondered whether this was because the celebrations took place after Armistice Day or whether there is a knock on from the current conflict in Iraq. It might just be that people have less money this year - I certainly have. Whatever the reason, it was worthwhile and Helen and I had a good time.

Because of the lighting problem we decided to call a halt at half past three and formed up again. Another trip to the docks through Plymouth and we loaded up there. I had forgotten what it was like to drive her, although the process of driving came back pretty quickly. I caught sight of us in shop windows and I have to say that it looked pretty good. Getting home was more exciting. As with most things the timing drifted and we ended up in the dark. Not just twilight, but pitch black dark. We off loaded on the main road, and with Anne, Andy and Helen set off to move a camouflaged vehicle with no lights across a main road and a mile and a half home in the dark. Put like that it seems a stupid idea and I suppose it was, but with a bit of planning, some reflective jackets and my heart in my mouth I did it. Anne had a difficulty with a mini bus which refused to stop to let us carry out the manoeuvre safely, but otherwise people were quite reasonable. With the aid of a couple of torches and Anne driving in front of us we reached home safely. I do not know what it is about traffic. We live outside a small village in the middle of nowhere, and yet once you try to do something slightly scary cars appear from nowhere. Still, it all worked and she is now tucked up in her shed

The oil leak seems to have abated, but it really did not get warm enough to tell. During the day we all discussed the best way ahead, and Andy and Harry feel that it is probably better to try a thread sealant before we lift the box again. I’ll go with that, although I might wait until the winter maintenance is under way. That way I can see what else I need to do. The jobs on my list are to remake the brake lines, to stop the leak, to look at the running gear (tracks, wheels etc.) and to start putting the turret back together.

It is Malvern next week and I will go there with money burning a hole in my pocket. Actually, I say that every year and still do not go mad. I will probably save the bulk of it until Stoneleigh in January. Top of my list for the Scorpion are the smoke dischargers. There is a chap who has had some replica ones made and these look good enough for my purposes. They are not cheap, but will virtually finish the exterior. After that it is just a case of working through the rest. I am not as purposeful perhaps as I ought to be and I am a little disorganised. Every year I make resolutions about trying harder, but it does not seem to work. Maybe this will be my year.

I have to concrete the floor of the shed - this will have to happen soon, but it relies on others. There is a Cornish word, dreckly, which is a real beauty. If you ask someone when they can do something it is usually deckly. I have heard it described as like manjana but without the sense of urgency. It is true, but it fits within the pace of life around here. So, I will do the floor dreckly. By Christmas if I can borrow an excavator. No promises as to which Christmas though.

Looking back over the summer, it has been a blur. I did not get to any rallies after Weymouth but went as a visitor to Beltring and Stoneleigh. I saw Martin back at the end of August as he was on mid tour leave, and had a drive in the Stallion. The last time I had seen it, it was minus tracks, some wheels and various other bits and pieces. He had been back two weeks and it was coming together. We decided that she should get out of the shed and go for an inaugural run, so that is what happened. She really is an awesome thing. Whilst the running gear is basically CVR(T), beefed up in a couple of places, the rest seems enormous. She is much wider than Scorpion or Streaker and very much higher and longer. We had trouble getting her out of the shed, as the run out is a little too short to get her clear before she turns around. The other problem is the engine. It is a six cylinder Perkins and talk about smoky. On tick over it chucks out all sorts of muck and really does not run clean until the turbo cuts in. As a result, we were coughing and spluttering until she cleared the shed and I am sure that the Health and Safety people would have had a freezing fit. Martin is looking at adapting the exhaust to allow the connection of some trunking to clear the shed, but not yet.

Once out it was a quick look over and out on the track. She went like a dream; a little choppy as the mine laying gear is not on the back, but otherwise pretty good. The brakes were non existent as they need bleeding off after fitting the gearbox. I drove her for a few laps and it is different. There is a lot more torque and the gear ratios seem better spaced. You are not up and down the box as much as in Scorpion and the engine response is crisper. You are certainly aware of the width and height and the driving position is better. The tillers are the modern ones with the light and indicator controls mounted on them and these took some getting used to. They are lower down than CVR(T) and the wires get in the way sometimes. All in all it was good fun. Getting back in to the shed was a nightmare as the overhang at the back meant that the angle was critical. We managed it in the end, although my directing was pretty poor so Martin made me drive.

Stoneleigh was interesting - three CVR(T) there. Two are owned by the same person and they are perfect. Quite an achievement and he should be proud of them. The diesel Scorpion is now sporting a Scimitar turret and is again very good. In terms of armour there was a Chieftain and a Russian tank. I am not too good on them, but I think it was a T72. The Chieftain looked good but seemed to be having battery problems. I take my hat off to people who own large armour, especially foreign armour. The difficulties that I have had pale into insignificance compared with something the size of Chieftain. A few years ago, in the run up to buying the Scorpion, Harry and I went to look at a disposal sale. There was a Chieftain there and we climbed on and had a look. It was massive, the rear brake discs must have been a couple of feet in diameter and it was all so far down. Climbing up on the back was a major effort. If I win the lottery then I might do it, but that would be the only silly purchase I would make.

After Stoneleigh it went a bit quiet. Martin went abroad again and the Scorp was stuck in Weymouth. To be honest I lost interest and did not really pick up a magazine. I did not get as much movement on the shed as I hoped, although that is now on track. I have dug out the floor and made the approach less tight as well as getting the ground levelled for the next bay. I now have to turn what is a re-enactment of the Somme into a proper drive. In the meantime the tank is out in the weather again. You cannot win. I just think now that she is unlikely to deteriorate too badly now and tidying up will be part of the winter project anyway. It should only be a couple of weeks under canvas at best. How nice it will be to have light and power in the shed. Even doors would be a good thing. Space would be the best.

Part 4

 

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