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 4.

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March 2005

Where did the time go? Work has been the main culprit and it has been a little difficult domestically. I have been trying to fit too many things into a limited time and achieved very little. Never mind, there is always the summer.

The weather here has been shocking. It seems to have rained constantly since last October, and although this should not have too much bearing on what goes on in the shed, it makes everything messy to move around. We did dig the ground out and I have obtained prices for concrete. At this stage I think that paving it with gold would be a better proposition as every one seems to want silly money. If I buy a ready mixed load, you save on labour but it is dear. If I buy the materials and pay for it to be laid then I get caught for labour and it is dear. As I am looking at about £1000, I have decided to leave it all until I can guarantee better weather. There is no point in laying the stuff only to have it washed away by a downpour.

The Scorp is all tucked up and happy. She gets a start up every week or so and runs in and out of the shed. There is nothing too wrong with her - she starts first time and ticks over fine. Anneís brother has promised some thread sealant from work which is oil resistant so I can apply it in situ to the drain plug. I have found a few bits and pieces which add to the look, although the weather has taken a toll on some bits that were in the bins.

After Poppy Day it was the annual militaria show at Stoneleigh. I bought the replica smoke dischargers at Malvern and I managed a few things at Stoneleigh. Nothing useful - I bought a set of covers for the dischargers and when I got home found that they were the wrong ones. I took pity on another side bivi which was reduced to £20 so have two now. As it came with a complete set of pegs and heavy duty poles, these alone were worth the money. Anne does not see the logic in this, but there you go. I also bought a Tilley lamp for ten pounds. I am looking forward to seeing that go.

Dave kindly found me a new driverís hatch seal and two shackles for the front. I have bought the recovery ropes which festoon all Scorps and need shackles to attach them. Sometimes you wonder what designers play at. There are a couple of large eyes on the front which act as an anchoring point for the A frame and these are used to pass the shackle pins through. The shackles fit snugly; the rope is attached ready for that muddy day when you get bogged down. Except that although the shackle fits snugly, there is not enough space between the headlights and the lug or the mudguards and the lug to start the pin in the shackle. It would only take another half an inch!

I have started to choose the rallies this year. Weymouth is OK, we have a local one at St Ive and Pendennis is looking as if it might be on. English Heritage are keen, but they have let the castle for a wedding on the Saturday and they do not want vehicles or tents on site. This means that we arrive on the Friday, set up; knock down on the Saturday, back up on the Sunday and away on the Monday. I think that it is too difficult for what we will get out of it.

It is now ten days to St Ive. She is going and I have bought a few more bits to put on. I have also bought a few nuts and bolts to fill in holes and tighten down the armour and radiator louvers. I missed a local rally last weekend but I hear that it was wet and miserable and not well attended. I think that it is getting a bit difficult to fit them in, and consequently they are starting earlier in the season. Andy went to one at a local fort a couple of weeks ago which I think was the earliest I have known. The problem is that you cannot trust the weather and I do not think that the public are ready for them. I think that the number of rallies is increasing and most weekends there is a choice. As there are a limited number of vehicles, this inevitably reduces the number at each show. I suppose that it is cheap for the organisers - they do not pay to get the attractions there, but they receive the proceeds. We are noticing that there is now an increasing trend towards charging the exhibitors an entrance fee as well, only a few pounds but given the cost of transport it is a bit cheeky. The usual excuse is that it costs to stage an event, insurance, health and safety etc. and perhaps that is so but they need to remember that the public will not pay to visit an empty field.

June 2005

St Ive and Weymouth are now under our belt and it has been a good start to the season. I think that the next trip for her will be to a local charity show in early August. It is about on the edge of my range, some fifteen miles from home, but raises money for a local hospice and they are very nice people. The club is also having an event there later in the month, so it will be a test of endurance. It does not seem far enough away to hire transport, but is a little farther than a trip down the road.

She is running very well - St Ive was a little on the unprepared side, but as it is only just up the road I am fairly relaxed. There are always people there with tractors, so recovery is not an issue. I cannot say that she is as tidy as I would wish, the time outside last year has taken its toll but on the whole it looks like a service vehicle.

I have acquired some more parts for the inside; a gunnerís sight, the guard around the gun, the ejection chute and have a lead on some others. Although I have not put them on yet, they are painted up and ready.

Andy and I have decided that the only way to maintain progress is to become more self disciplined. We are at the stage now where we are no longer playing catch up and lurching from one crisis to another. There are jobs to be done, but in general now they make the machine more effective and act as an improvement. We have started by drawing up a list, and have it with us when we work. Any jobs that are discovered are put on the list and then we know what is what. We also investigate what parts are required and then I add those to the parts list.

We are also trying to spend at least one day a month on her. I have noticed that Martin and Dave maintain reasonable progress by spending each Saturday at Bagington. Work and other commitments will not let me devote that amount of time but we can get somewhere on once a month with the odd evening or day thrown in. We shall see, but so far there is an improvement.

Before Weymouth we had a real good go at the engine. I have changed the oil a couple of years ago but had done nothing about the plugs. I felt that she was not running as well as I hoped and that the idle was not helping. As the clutch is centrifugal, it is susceptible to variations in tick over. There is a non return cage which stops the clutch running the other way, and this was banging like mad. Similarly the clutch was not engaging smoothly as it was dragging and freewheeling as the idle altered. Anyway, we have changed the plugs and adjusted the mixture and it is much better and smoother. It will need another adjustment as we found that she was a little fast when she warmed up at Weymouth. As a result the gear changes were a little on the fierce side. At least that is my excuse.

Weymouth went very slickly. Adrian met us up the road and we loaded up without a hitch. I am still nervous about the loading, you pass a point where all you can see is sky and you know deep down that there is only about a foot each side of the tracks before you go over the side. Having said that I am now going straight on and off without a problem and as we work to make her smoother and more responsive to engine and steering, the task gets easier. Once we were loaded, he set off and we joined him later that day having picked Helen and her friend up from school. Tony met us there and we set the camp up in record time. Anne found fish and chips and we spent the evening chatting and planning for the next day.

The weather was perfect, sunny and bright although not too hot. Having learned a couple of years ago that I must put on sun cream the girls were soon on my case. We had bought some high factor stuff and it worked well. My nose did peel a little but nothing compared to a couple of years ago when my legs, nose ears and face really caught it.

I have found this with rallies in the sun. perhaps it is an armour thing, but there is rarely anywhere to hide out of the sun or rain, depending what is happening. I have lost count of the number of times that I have ended up with a sore face or arms as a result or even soaking wet clothes. Pendennis last year was one of the wettest I have been to and it takes the edge off it.

This year there were no such problems. We loaded up and went down to the town. I am always nervous about this - not only because we have broken down once before but also the general fear associated with taking something like the Scorpion through traffic. This time there were no problems at all. The engine was much smoother, albeit a little fast when she really warmed up. There is a clicking from the left hand track but otherwise she felt fine. The gearbox leak gets worse when she is hot, but even with this she has hardly registered the loss.

The trip down to the town was easy; even the traffic lights were with us. I caught a couple of glimpses of us in shop windows and she really looked good. Because the paint was not as fresh as we would have liked, we decided to present her more as a field vehicle and put our camouflage uniforms on and dangled some webbing over the sides. It worked pretty well.

As soon as we stopped, I met a chap who was ex 4RTR and we chatted for over an hour. He feels that we have almost got it right. The eyes are pretty good, the overall effect of the colour scheme is right but he did not like the lettering of the name and thought that the call sign was a bit too bright. That is fair comment - I am not too happy with the lettering as I am not an artist and it looks decidedly amateurish. Initially I drew it out with a stencil but when I came to fill it in with paint, it went slightly awry. He was in Chieftains and they went away to be sign written, which I suppose is fine for millions of pounds worth of kit. Anyway, I am looking at ways to make it better when she is repainted for next year. He pointed me in the direction of a 4 RTR web site in Scotland and I will find that and see whether anyone remembers her.

The trip back up to the campsite was uneventful. Actually there was one thing now I remember, but it was driver error. As you come into the site there is a sharpish left hand entrance. I dropped down the box to make sure that I was capable of doing it and to lose some speed as visibility is not too good. As I turned I messed it up and she went a bit wide. There was a car coming the other way, but neither of us were compromised. I stopped easily and then went to the bottom of the box to tighten up the turn, but when I came to do it she would not respond. There seemed to be no drive again, a bit of steering response but altogether nowhere near as much as I expected. We tried for about five minutes, and in the end reversed back to get a better angle. It was then that I smelled the clutch and realised that instead of going down the box, I had gone up it and was trying to do it all in seventh not first. It was just inexperience and a lapse in concentration. Once I realised what I needed to do to rectify the situation, we carried on without incident.

The following day we went down again and this time stopped off to put in some petrol. It shows that we are gaining confidence if we are able to do this. I found that my skill level is improving, and I am becoming aware of the width and capabilities. I can judge the gap and the turn pretty well now, and feel that I am becoming safer. The main thing though is not to become complacent.

The parade was as good as ever. We were the last vehicle, and spent most of the morning breathing in diesel fumes from the Abbot and the FV434. At the end we parked up and dripped oil everywhere as she was red hot by then. We listened to the bands and left about four. After that it was on the low loader, back home and to bed.

The only thing that happened was that we had a problem with a pair of wheels. The road wheels on Scorpion are two piece alloy castings with a rubber tyre bonded on the rim. The two castings are riveted together. They do lose tyres, as apparently do most tracked vehicles, and this does not generally affect the vehicle. On our way to the forming up point, Tony mentioned that one of our tyres had detached itself and rolled up someoneís drive. No problem with that, we checked the remaining wheels and they looked safe enough. They were, at least until I got home.

Having off loaded I skittled back to the shed in the dark. Going through the field gate I heard a bit of a bang and felt a jolt through the hull. Once in the shed I smelled rubber. The following day I looked at her and found that the rim of the inner wheel had become detached and jammed itself between the remaining disc and the torsion arm.

There was no other damage, so Andy and I decided that we would look at it that Saturday. We had decided to start with a survey of the vehicle to list what was required to get her up to a better standard and as the weather was shaping up nicely, to finish the day with a barbecue.

The survey was pretty reasonable. We need to look at a few things, but nothing that we were not aware of. It has helped to focus on what is important and give a structure to our efforts. We then started on the wheels. I had made a start earlier in the week, but had only managed three of the six wheel bolts. They are not studs like a car, but ĹĒ UNF bolts. In order to hold the head of the bolt still, they fit into two semi circular plates which have blocks welded to them. The problem is that over the years the blocks spread and they do not do their job. They do however prevent you from getting a socket over the end of the bolt. We also found that the majority of the bolts were ground off at the ends and the last half inch of thread was so mangled that they had to be ground off completely. After that, we needed a huge piece of wood with Anne and me sitting on it to get the hub sufficiently off the ground to replace the wheels. The strength in the torsion bars is awesome. A two ton jack struggled to lift it two inches, but after some sweat and tears the replacement wheels were back on and held in place with three bolts.

I have found out why it might have been necessary to grind off the bolts. Apparently the flange on the early hubs was half an inch thick whereas the later ones were increased to an inch. I assume therefore that the bolts that were used were for the later one and too long for the old hub that mine has. Interesting the things that you pick up.

I have been on leave and up to the Midlands to pick up some spares. Tony is interested in buying an ex military police bike and we went to a preview of an MOD tender where one was being released. It looked fairly good, obviously well used as the fairing showed signs of wear and tear. However we were told that although the engine fired and ran, there was no movement along the drive train. Anyway, Tony put in a bid based on this so we will see what happens. They had another there which was a runner but they were asking silly money for it. It was over two thousand pounds more than a comparable civilian model which given that the mileage was higher is too much of a premium to pay. Tony offered a reasonable amount, but they declined saying that they had turned down better offers before. After the tender we might go along with the money in folding notes and see how we are received. The rest of the tender was about as expected. There were some CVRT there, but nothing that stood out. I saw a useful low loader trailer, but with a guide of around ten thousand it was a bit dear to sit in a field. I did not really see any bargains or things I could not live without.

My trip for spares was worthwhile and I am getting the stow together. I am also learning about CVRT and restoration tips and techniques. The chap I bought the spares from is doing a Scorpion for the US market and I had a chance to look over it. Needless to say the standard is very high, but then again so is the price tag. I was impressed with his ethos and approach to safety and look forward to dealing with him in the future. He is also doing a Sabre but not in such depth. His aim is to make a safe and roadworthy vehicle that will form the basis for a collector to continue.

Back home and it was out with the paint brush to turn some rusty bits of metal into parts for the Scorpion. I also managed to pick up the correct gear change lever to replace the one that we made last year. It is a much more substantial thing than ours and should fit without any mucking about. Or it would do if I could find it! I must have had a senior moment and out it away safely somewhere. I remember it clearly, it has been around whilst I found the correct bolt ends to fix it. Now I have them and I cannot find the part. I spent all day yesterday in the garage and the shed looking for it, but to no avail. I am sure that it is there, but where?

Today is the last of the current hot spell and co-incidentally the last day of my leave. I have spread the tents and other stuff out to air and can then pack it away secure in the knowledge that it is dry and will not suffer. Last year whilst the Scorp was stuck in Weymouth the weather got into some of the kit and spoiled it. I lost a canvas bag that held the camouflage poles, which is probably no big deal, but it is a specialist thing with a foam padded bottom and I have only ever seen that one. As a result of its exposure to the rain, it rotted through and now cannot be used.

I am also moving some hard spares down from the loft as I think it would be easier if they were in one place, and Anne thinks that it would be better if they were somewhere else. The garage looks favourite.

I have found the fulcrum; it was not in the garage but in the porch. I suppose that it was on its way out to the garage but did not make it. I now have all that is required to do that job, so I will have a go this afternoon. Another job from my list.

My list runs to 37 jobs at the moment; some are too general and will have to be broken down to smaller jobs, but others are complete. I am finding it a good idea and although it is a little daunting to see jobs being added rather than being taken off, it has the effect of concentrating my mind on the task in hand.

I am also going to look hard at my tools. I have a good selection of decent quality tools, but I have noticed over the past year or so that some are missing. I am generally very good about accounting for them, so I am assuming that they have been tidied up to another place or are in a box somewhere. I find that this is a problem working in two places. My tools are in the garage but the Scorp is in the shed. The shed is too damp at the moment to keep tools in, so they trot up and down. I think that this is the problem. I used to have a plastic box that I used to transport them, but I stood on it getting off the Scorp and broke it. Since then It has been a bit disorganised. As part of my tidy up I am collecting tools together and putting them back in the tool box.

Mike came around and we fitted the gearchange and replaced the bolts and backplate on the wheel station. The bolts will have to be torqued up at a later stage, and I will borrow Mike torque wrench for that. The wheel change was quite straightforward once we had worked out how to use the track jack. It needs a little piece of wood to hold in as there is a risk of trapping fingers and worse, so I will carry one in the vehicle.

One small observation from yesterday which pretty much seems to sum something up. I have a cotton liner for the 9x9 and it had become a little musty. As it was sunny yesterday I put it up in the garden to air. Come the evening I went out to bring it in and pack it up. Our ginger cat came out with me, and for some unfathomable reason decided that the liner would be much better if he urinated all over it. This is not something I have ever seen him do before but it meant that I had to wash the whole thing which is a big job. It is now wet and I am trying to dry to before the weather turns. As I type I can hear thunder, so for the computerís sake I will finish now.

It was just as well that I did, as five minutes later it hammered down. I brought the liner in before it really got underway, and put the Scorp back under cover, although it was raining heavily by then. Once in the shed I had to stay under cover for about ten minutes before it eased off enough to run back to the house. The power was knocked out a couple of times and everything became very, very wet.

I repaired the welder and tried that out. It was not an easy job, but patience and tea resulted in it working. I cannot weld, or at least I never have. I tried the machine out, and I have to say that I managed to stick some weld on to a steel strip. It was not pretty, but it did not come off when I hit it with a hammer so that is a success. I am looking to make a beacon plate as my first job. I have taken pictures of Martinís and whilst mine is not really the same, it will do as a pattern. It is only a flat plate with two strengthening ribs on it, so I think that even I can manage that.

I have bought a Complete Equipment Schedule from E bay so I am looking forward to see what that contains. It will give me a chance to see how accurate I am. I think that this is about all for this section, not much will happen until my next days off.

July 2005

It has been an interesting couple of weeks. When we put her away last I left the top armour off in order to do a couple of jobs in the engine bay. I have done some of those, but not all. Anyway, a neighbour came to see me the other day and asked whether I would put the Scorpion into the local agricultural show in order to publicise a steam rally that they are organising later in the month. As it is under a mile away from us it seemed churlish to refuse, so I agreed. I was also contacted by a local care home to which my mother in law goes for an appearance to assist them with a VJ day that they are holding for the residents. Again, it seemed like a good idea, so the armour had to go back on.

That by itself was not a problem, Mike came around and we torqued the wheels back up and lifted the top armour back on. When I came to start her up I realised that we had a problem.

Within the Scorpion there is a small electrical drain that I cannot find. I think that it is likely to be something silly, such as a sight heater or something to do with the IR sight, but it can drain the batteries in a couple of days if I do not turn off the master switch. Guess what I had done? Quite right, I had left the master switch on and I had very flat batteries.

Normally this is not a problem, although it is irritating. The drill is to disconnect the batteries and charge each one, one after the other. I find that although I have a twenty four volt charger, they do not like it if they are connected. As Mike and I were involved with the armour we asked Arron to connect the battery up for the charger. This he did, but in fact connected one of the turret batteries rather than one of the hull batteries. It was an easy mistake, and not serious, although it had ramifications later.

I did not discover this until the following day when I went out to swap the battery charger over to the other one. I then had to charge both the batteries and whilst she started I realise now that I had not put enough in.

That evening we went up to the show, and it was a good display. The following night I came to start her and she refused to turn over. This is very difficult. The fuel pump is going and there is charge in the batteries but just not enough to throw the bendix. I am in the middle of a field with a poorly tank and although I am close to home, it might as well be on the moon.

We tried what we could with the local resources. I could not find anything with a twenty four volt system, so we had to have a go with some twelve volt batteries. Although the batteries were not totally flat, we just could not raise them enough to throw the starter. After quite a bit of a struggle, the only option was to remove the batteries and take them home to charge.

Once this was done, the following morning we re-installed them and they worked like a dream. I have to admit that we had a good thrash around the field. Where we were parked was a gently undulating area about half a mile long and as wide as we needed. It had to be done so we opened her up. This was the first time that I have managed to get her up through the gears on non tarmac and it was fantastic. I reckon that we were doing about thirty and she just floated. Itís a funny experience, the suspension seems to settle and iron out the ups and downs and apart from a slight sway there is little track noise or movement. I had tried to get Anne to video it, but the camera didnít work. After this we all went off to the rest home and parked up. Unfortunately I had to work so I could not stay, but by all accounts the residents enjoyed it. We picked her up in the evening and drove back without a problem.

It is now obvious that I need to move on some system to keep the batteries topped up. I know that it was my fault and that I should not have left the switch on, but the effort required to get at the batteries is enormous. They are tucked right down in the front of the fighting compartment and only just fit out through the hatches. To get at them you have to squat in the hull and work bent double. At the moment I do not have the main bins and fittings in the turret, and it is difficult. When I have put these back, it will be really difficult. So I need to sort something out. I have talked it over with Andy and he reckons that if we put some cabling in from the batteries and then drill a small hole in the hull that exits into an outside bin, we can attach a plug and socket system to that. This would avoid our having to climb in and out all the time, and make detaching it before we drive off easier. Similarly we need to do the same with the turret batteries. I have looked on E Bay and seen a charger that promises everything - it is probably off a mobility scooter or something like that. At present no-one is interested and I stand a chance of a bargain. Andy is not wildly happy with it as it uses a processor technology and he thinks that our mains supply is not clean enough because we live in the wilds. However, at the moment it is all that I have.

My other task is to make a system that will jump the vehicle if I need to. I have the proper interstarter lead, but unless I am next to a vehicle with a similar socket, I cannot use it. I am looking at replacing the hull batteries anyway, and will keep the ones I take out. If I can get an interstarter socket, I can wire these on a small trolley and use them as slaves. A combination of these two things should solve the problem. As for my leaving the master switch on, that is something I will have to concentrate on.

August 2005

I have been to Beltring again, and what a show it is! John, the chap to whom I sold the Ferret, invited me as part of their club camp, and it was a really great time. The drive up was a bad one; it is 300 miles, and the motorway was shut. There had been an accident between a car and a lorry which resulted in a fire that completely closed both carriageways. After about two hours they opened up my side and driving past the wreckage made me think. I heard later on the radio that three people had died. I really find this a sad thing - to think that people are just going about their lives and wallop, it all ends in tragedy. I wish that people would bear this in mind when they decide to drive like complete morons; nothing is worth getting killed for.

So, instead of arriving at tea time, I ended up around 9pm. I met John and his friends and was really impressed with their set up. Whereas I have a 9x9 and a portable cooker, they had three 12x12 shelters as a field kitchen, complete with ovens, stoves, trestles and benches. We chatted over beers about vehicles and life in general and it was a lovely evening.

The following morning I was up early and set off around the stalls. I realised almost immediately that I had not packed as well as I should and that I had left my camera behind. That was a stupid thing to do, but I thought that I would try out my phone. Needless to say it did not work well, and I can only just work out what the photos are meant to be. This is nothing like the adverts for the phones show, but that is true of most things. You only have to look at a fast food restaurantís menu and the thing they serve you.

There were an incredible number of stalls. It took me at least four hours to get around them, and then most were passed at the gallop. It was really a case of my seeing something that looked like I might be interested in it before I stopped to look at the stall. Once again I was amazed by the amount of wartime stuff that was on sale. Not only Allied, but Axis as well - which considering the industrial situation at the time is pretty amazing. Some of it might be reproduction, I could not tell, but it was interesting. One stallholder had some battlefield relics - on the face of it rusty lumps of metal, but when you start to think about it more closely, you realise that each of these rusty rifles or mess tins belonged to someone and has a story to tell. I found it a little poignant, especially the weapons, as these were unlikely to have been abandoned voluntarily.

There were a few vehicles for sale - Withams had a Combat Engineer Tractor which is a big beast. Useful for the garden I thought, but I doubt whether Anne would agree. One stall had a very early Renault light tank which was not for sale, but was probably among the rarest vehicles at the show. It looked so flimsy and fragile compared with the more modern armour that I saw later in the day.

I managed to buy a few things - a very cheap interstarter lead that I hope will solve my battery problems, some smoke discharger covers, three headsets (spares or repair) and a fire extinguisher. This is for the car, as the M25 crash was still playing on my mind. I also picked up some Munga spares for Andy and delivered a can of paint by way of payment.

I saw some other things that I was tempted with, but prices were a little high. I saw roadwheels for the Scorp, but they were marked at £60 which is astronomic. The prize for the most audacious price tag went to a set of CVR(T) sprockets and track carriers on sale for £600.

We have new legislation coming in which will make it an offence to import or sell deactivated weapons. As with a lot of current legislation there is no detail available as to how this will work; the government are saying that our hobby will not be affected but I doubt that this will be the case. It appears that I will be unable to sell the Scorp with the gun in it, and neither will I be allowed to put in a drainpipe or something like that as this will be a replica gun. Needless to say the dealers are up in arms, although they were not sufficiently concerned to reduce prices. I might look at a Sterling at Malvern later in the year. Once bought, I will keep it lawfully and even if it becomes worthless, at least it makes the vehicle look good.

The afternoon I set aside to look at the vehicles. I was determined this year to see the heavy armour in the ring, so it was a bit of a gallop through the fields. As it turned out I had time in the evening to look again at those things that caught my eye, and as I will explain later, take part in the show experience.

Once again the scale of the show is overwhelming. There were vehicles as far as the eye could see, but this year there seemed to be more displays than last. The standard was very high, maybe higher than last year, and I was amazed at the level of detail. By far the most impressive were the German re-enactors. They not only have the equipment and vehicles but they look the part totally and take the field conditions seriously as well.

There was a recent report of a show in the Midlands that both British and German re-enactors attended. However following a complaint from a member of the public, the Germans were asked to leave. The police became involved in enforcing this request and it made the papers. I do not know the full facts of this case, so I really cannot comment on whether it was right that the police should have been involved. I understand the argument that re-enactment does not glorify war, and that it can act as a mark of respect towards veterans and those who took part in past conflicts. It is a fine line though and I am not sure that everyone appreciates the sensitivities.

This year there seemed to be more SS re-enactors than last. It might be that I merely noticed more, but I do not understand them. I do not know the history of the SS very well, and I certainly could not tell you anything about individual units, but then again I have no wish to. It strikes me that there is no need to represent any unit - it is all a matter of choice - and to choose to represent a group that have a questionable past is asking for trouble. I felt offended by their presence and I consider myself fairly tolerant. It detracts from what is a reasonable hobby and lays us open to criticism.

What else was there? A good trio of First World War re-enactors, one French, one German and one British who were posing for photographs. The displays along the back field were excellent and ranged from 1914 through to 1991. Interestingly there was a group representing the Croatian forces from the recent Balkans conflict. Again I do not know much about the conflict but it was an unpleasant war with unspeakable acts being carried out by some sections. I can see that the same issues will arise as with the SS. If someone depicts the paramilitary forces, or those units under the control of people wanted for war crimes then the potential for offence will be very great.

In the evening I was offered the chance to drive a Ferret around the site and give a ride to some children. I have not driven a Ferret recently and jumped at the chance to drive a Mk1. We pottered around looking at the displays and they were very good. Coming back along the rear of the field we were pulled over by a Marshall to let some heavy armour by. It was an amazing sight, probably a dozen Shermans, half tracks, an Archer and the biggest German half track I have seen. They rumbled past in a cloud of dust and really made the ground shake. With the re-enactors clinging to them it was a spectacle. The Ferret seemed quite small by comparison.

So, all in all a good couple of days and thanks to John and his friends for their hospitality.

August 2005.

I am looking to go to a small local rally next week. It is in aid of a local hospice and generally well attended. Normally the weather is good and there is a lot to do there apart from the vehicles. It is not an exclusively military show, and you generally get a large number of expensive classics there as well.

It is a bit far to travel - about twenty miles and the roads are tortuous to say the least. There is one bend, in the middle of a little village, where you could block the entire peninsular should you break down. Most of the road in that area is barely wide enough for two cars and there is a tendency to go for the gap and see who blinks first. I am not judging; I have done it. However, the Scorp is wider and slower than most, and it will be a high stress drive.

As it was, it turned out differently. Mike turned up to crew and because of the difficulties that we had at Weymouth, we decided to check each roadwheel carefully. Unfortunately we found that there were two tyres that seemed to be coming adrift and another two that looked pretty near. I have to admit that I chickened out then. It is a difficult call; in all likelihood we could have made it all the way and back without a problem but it would have been niggling all the way there and back. I felt that it would be better to knock it on the head then and save the worry.

We did go to the rally and it was a beautiful sunny day. There were fewer vehicles than normal which is probably a result of the charge that they made. The organisers have been faced with a bill from the Police for traffic management and have passed this on to the entrants. It would have cost five pounds to enter, and a number of the car clubs decided that this was excessive. I heard that one chap who usually trailered in half a dozen motorcycles was told that he would have to pay for each one. Not surprisingly he did not go. It is a difficult call. I do not mind the five pounds particularly, especially as in this case the event benefits a worthy cause. However, without the vehicles there is no show, and certainly with the Scorpion the true cost of the show is likely to be in the region of sixty to seventy pounds if fuel costs are added.

I think that this will have an effect on shows. Over the years that I have had a showable vehicle, I have noticed that the number of small shows has increased to the extent that there is generally a choice on most weekends. Some are more established than others and with some you feel that you are being asked along just to get the public in through the gate. The difficulty now is that the cost of complying with Health and Safety legislation and Public Liability insurance is making it difficult for small shows to be viable. This might shake out some of the less well attended ones, but something like Mount Edgecumbe, that is a charity event, will struggle to meet these costs without passing them on somehow.

On the return we realised exactly how the Police had organised it. They had created a huge loop around Millbrook, presumably to avoid the dread right angled bend, and took us on a thirty mile detour to get back. I am really glad that I did not take the Scorp as although it was a pretty drive, the roads were much narrower and the traffic much heavier. At one stage we met a double-decker bus coming the other way and all had to breathe in. Goodness knows what we would have done in the Scorp.

I think that this is the end of our season. We have to do Poppy day in November, but I have a month or so to get into the engine bay and do the points and timing. I also have to look at getting the gearbox leak sorted out finally. If I can mange it I will wait until Martin comes back and he can give me an assessment of the noise and a couple of other things that I need to know about. He really needs to hear it running so that he can make a judgement.

September 2005

It has been a glorious start to the month. We are in the throes of an Indian summer and all I am doing is working. Actually that is not quite true as I have had a weekís leave. We went away for a couple of days and it rained quite heavily, but it was an enjoyable break. The Scorp is still in the shed and there has been no progress. I did try to buy a 3/4 inch deep half inch drive impact socket from a local tool supplier so that I could get ready to do the wheels. I figure that my normal bar and grunt method could be improved if I use my air impact driver as there are six nuts to a wheel and I have nine to do. I have spun them off with a normal socket but I thought that as it is a common size on the vehicle I would spend the sixteen pounds. All sorts of promises given; it would go on the next order and be back with me in about ten days. I had heard nothing a fortnight later so I rang. So sorry, it is on back order and I meant to ring. I was assured that it would be put in again. It might well have been but there has been a deafening silence and no socket. This has taken a month and I am no farther forward. All the local tool chains stock Imperial sets but for some bizarre reason they jump from eleven sixteenths to thirteen sixteenths. I know that I can find a metric equivalent but call me old fashioned, I do like the socket to fit the nut. I will use the local representative of a well known American company. They may be a bit dear, but they are good.

I have also been doing some stuff on E-Bay this month. I find it a strange experience. I have bought some things for the car and this has been pretty good, but Scorpion stuff is so unpredictable. I am also not very good at bidding and the last five things I have gone for I have been pipped at the last minute. I donít know why, but I feel slightly cheated by this. I accept that it is an auction and the last bid counts, but you somehow feel that it is underhand to cut in during the dying seconds and snatch it away.

John has given me a tip that he says will ensure I win everything going. I have a pair of black coveralls in my sights and this could be the test. I have tried it for a set of roof bars for the car but was outbid. They went for more than I was prepared to pay, so I cannot grumble.

I have been in touch with Andy who has a couple of chargers for me which will solve the problem of the batteries. I need to get on with the wiring side now.

October 2005

Still very little progress on the shed front, but Brian has said that he will do it and that I can buy in bulk and get it delivered to the farm. This would help as the discount on bulk will probably pay for the labour. The weather has been pretty grim recently and the field is very muddy. The rain has shorted out the pump for our water and I am currently living off bottled water.

I did get the coveralls from E bay and also a set of 4RTR slides and a brassard. The chap who sold the coveralls is ex 4RTR and has been helpful with some detail for the re-paint. I have a few jobs to do today but hope to get into the shed and start her up. Martin is back in the UK now, so he might be able to pop down and listen to this gearbox.

John, the chap who bought the Ferret is in the market for a CVR(T). He is on the trail of a Scorpion, but it is a question of persuading the owner to sell it, and he is also looking at a Sultan which is definitely for sale. The Sultan seems very original and is in good condition, but there is a question over the engine. The Scorpion is original as cast, but has not moved for a couple of years. There is a difference in the price but then again there is a difference between the vehicles.

The water pump failure at home is irritating but whilst the electrician is here, I will ask him about getting power down to the shed. This will make it possible to get more done during the winter. Every cloud has a silver lining.

It has been one of those weeks. We have sorted the pump out temporarily and a friend will go through the system and make it completely waterproof. However, the Scorpion has nose dived. I went down to the shed today to try to seal the gearbox leak. I ran her out and she is not running very happily. The engine seems a little flat and clattery and does not want to tick over smoothly. Having run her out, I went underneath and located the plug. Two turns, may be three and it fell off, followed by the contents of the gearbox. Looking at the plug, I think that the reason it was leaking was that it had cracked around. I have looked at it and it is not a new split, so I think that it has been like this for some time. Anyway, it means that the box has to come out and I have to remove the rest of the plug. The other thing is that the oil was the colour of green milk. Some water has got in, probably when she was standing outside waiting to get back from Weymouth the other year. I have looked at the driverís manual and it says to flush it through with PX10. I have found a Morrisons Oil which will do, so I will make enquiries. Looks like I have a job for the winter.

Actually it is not so bad. I would much rather do the job properly than just cobble it back together, so now is my chance. I think that it is unlikely that I will get her to Poppy Day now, unless I get more time than I think I will have. I had better start on the list of bits.

If I can I will try to clear a couple of niggling jobs at the same time. I have a new rotor arm and distributor cap that has to be fitted and the exhaust elbow has always been a lash up so if I can get the bits I will do that. The hoses on the gearbox oil feed are a bit ropey so they could be done as are the steering brake callipers and the brake lines. I need to look at the prop shaft rubbers and splines and the engine water pump and generator driving belts. I have some concerns over the fan bearing and need to think about replacing the gearbox pressure regulating valve. There are also a couple of dodgy threads in various places that could do with a tap out.

That looks like quite a list. Iím sure that some of them will not be done either because I cannot get the parts or I run out of time. I will see; it looks like I will be spending some time in the shed over the next couple of weeks.

November 2005

There is a little progress. I have managed to get some flushing oil and I have spoken to everyone about the job. It is not seen as difficult, so I am encouraged. The general consensus is that it is likely to have happened when the box was out, and that it probably was damaged by resting the box on it or dropping it heavily. I have to say that this is a possibility as it is not the easiest thing to manhandle and I have learned something. I will have to get the plug out somehow; Martin reckons that I can either try to tap out the remainder with a small chisel or cut through it carefully with a hacksaw blade and tap it out that way. I think that the biggest difficulty will be to put the gearbox in a position where I can get at the plug.

The top armour is off now and I am beginning to let the dog see the rabbit. I am surprised how tatty the bay has become over the past couple of years. I did paint most of the metalwork and yet surface rust is appearing in many places. This is not a problem, I will just touch up whilst I am about it.

I think that I will also look at the braking system whilst I am doing it. It has been looked at once and it works, but the pipe runs are a bit mangled and I think that it could do with an overhaul. I really need to think about the steering callipers, they are a little tatty and could probably do with refurbishing. I have been advised to modify the steering master cylinders as they are liable to pull away from the hull. In service they are held in by a tapped hole in the floor, but with the inevitable strain this can strip. I have been advised to forget the ballistics and wading properties and drill straight through the hull and fit a nut and bolt. This makes sense, so I will try.

Cosmetically I have been getting parts together for the inside and painting them. I have about ninety per cent of the inside bits ready and once I can stop mucking about with the gearbox I can get on with it. There is a list of small jobs that need doing; the intercom works but not particularly well, the fuel gauge does not read properly and the lights are playing up. I have to sort out this keep-alive system and fit it.

There is one interesting piece of news, John (the chap who bought the Ferret) has bought a Scorpion. It was not the one he looked at originally, but seems quite complete.

March 2006

Where did the time go? A fair bit has happened since last I wrote, although not much until recently with the Scorp. Work has been busy and we have built an annex for Anneís mum and I am afraid that the Scorp has been squeezed in to second (or third) place.

John did buy his Scorpion and has spent the winter getting it ready. We went on a few buying sprees and I have amassed some interior bits. His looks really good and seems to be running pretty well. I have spent the week fixing the gearbox leak and hope to get it re-assembled before I go back to work. The job has been fairly straightforward thus far - I was right in the diagnosis and the plug had sheared. I think that this had been the case for a while as the metal showed two distinct areas of break. Anyway, The box came out with the aid of a hired engine crane and a large sheet of 18 millimetre plywood as a base. The crane was rated at 250k and did not seem to struggle or look dangerously overloaded, so I think that I was worrying unnecessarily. Once out I tapped the remains of the plug out with a small chisel and it came out like a dream. The next problem was that the plug Martin had given me was the wrong size, but this was not fatal as the local pressure lines retailer found a tapered plug of the correct size. It is about 1Ē BSP and fitted beautifully with a bit of PTFE as the belt and braces. The box went back in pretty well and the job was done in a day, including tea and a trip to Plymouth.

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Looking from front of vehicle into engine bay, driver's position on right.


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Looking from driver's position forwards at gearbox.


Then it hit the buffers! There are two drive shafts that have to be connected and these are a real pain. They are cogs which locate in a housing which is secured by a small sprung plug. Not only do you have to align the splines, but you must also align the plug. You then have to push the shaft through from the outside with someone on the inside jiggling it around to get it to line up. One went in after about four hours of this and the other took two weeks. In the end I phoned Martin who is abroad and he said just tap it with a copper mallet. Two taps and it went in. Again I think that I am the victim of my own timidity. I am now re-assembling the engine bay and hope to finish it tomorrow.

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Alignment fun.....


Well, that will teach me. I managed to get the whole thing back together again and fired her up. She burst into life and really sounded fine. I had replaced the gearbox oil with flushing oil to try to get the manky stuff out and whether this made her quieter or not I donít know. Either way, the engine was a bit sputtery but the box seemed to be smooth and quiet. I was just finishing a well-earned cup of tea when Anne pointed out that it was dripping from under the body. Sure enough, when I looked at the drain hole there it was as well as a fair bit inside the gearbox bay. From the colour and smell it was obviously flushing oil and a visual inspection showed that it was not coming from the drain plug. I stopped then as it was too dark to see.

The following day was no better. I could not see a leak but it was still dripping. There is little clearance below the box, so mirrors and torches have only a limited success. It had to be a hose or something like that, so I tried to get down inside to see. The problem is that you cannot and as a result I decided to take the bulkhead out again. All Sunday Mike and I struggled with the thing and in the end we think that we have found the problem. At the bottom of the gear selector tower there is a pipe and a brass banjo union. I assume that it must be for the excess oil to return to the sump for recycling. Anyway, it looked a little wet and we tightened it up. It might have caught when the box went in as it is very close to the torsion bar housing. We shall see.

So, itís all back together and she fired up and the box engages. It was too dark to see whether there was any oil so tomorrow after work I will have a good look.

Tonight is a bit of an event. She fired up, the box turns and after a bit of fiddling she ran out of the shed and ticked over for about forty five minutes. By then everything was warm and there did not seem to be any oil dripping. The underside of the box is dry and the hull floor is also, so I think that might count as a success.

It was another one of those nights - we have had a few really pleasant days and cool evenings and just pottering in the shed with a cup of tea, clearing up the tools whilst the engine burbled over was really pleasant and the memory of the struggle faded from memory. All I have to do now is get the driverís compartment back together and we are ready.

The re-assembly went pretty well. By now it is almost something that I can do blindfold and the nuts and bolts are pretty easy to do. I have run her around the field and she is going well and the different angles have allowed the splashed antifreeze and old oil to run out through the drain covers. I ran her out and washed her down, all ready to fit the top armour and go to the rally.

Then it all went horribly wrong. I mean really, horribly wrong. Anne and Helen had gone away for the day so I thought that I would nose her in so that it would be easy to lift the top armour on. This is a manoeuvre that I have done countless times and have never had a problem. This time it was different. I moved up towards the shed which involves climbing a bank and then stopping, slewing slightly right and going straight in. This time as I crested the rise I realised that the engine was screaming and taking my foot from the throttle had made no difference. I pressed the brake as hard as I could but it was not sufficient to stop her and although she slowed down, she did not stop. Every time I relaxed my foot, she started off and by this time I was up against the nearside upright of the shed. She just kept going, slowly but inexorably and snapped a baulk of timber like a match. By this time I had recovered sufficiently to hit the master switch and she stopped. I was absolutely white and shaking, worried that the shed would now come down on top of me and the realisation of the potential of this disaster gradually getting through.

So what happened? The answer is that I really do not know for sure. I do not think that it was a fuel or ignition problem and that the key lies with the throttle linkage somewhere. I initially thought that I had managed to cover the throttle and brake with one huge boot, and the harder I pressed the brake the more I pressed the throttle, but trying to recreate this proved impossible. Whilst there is an outside chance of the foot slipping from one to the other, it is not possible to hit both at once, especially if the brake is applied hard.

The next things I looked at were the throttle rods themselves. The Scorpion has a piece of bent rod that feeds through a hole in the pedal and terminates in a socket with a spring clip. This in turn fits over a ball which is mounted on one corner of a triangular plate. From another corner of the plate is a similar ball jointed rod which runs to the carburettor. The third side has a fitting which anchors one end of the pull off spring.

In order to provide a rudimentary hand throttle the triangular plate has a tube welded through it and the whole thing pivots over a bolt mounted through the firewall and is secured with a wing nut. The idea is that you nip up the wing nut and this has the effect of locking the throttle rods as if there is pressure on the pedal.

I think what happened is that either this plate ran over centre and locked, or more likely the horizontal rod to the carburettor fouled one of the bolt heads in the firewall and this prevented it from returning. There is a bit of vertical adjustment on the plate mounting bracket and I was able to move the whole assembly down to achieve this.

At the end of the day there are a couple of things that will need looking at. The first is that the pull off spring needs beefing up. The second is that the pivot needs to be a better fit through the plate to stop any hint of it wobbling around and to ensure that it can only run parallel to the fire wall. If it cannot wobble then it cannot lock itself.

Apart from a slight bend in the floatation screen and a torn up mud flap there is no damage to the Scorp - the shed is another matter!

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Shed renovations.


Now that I have had time to think about it, the enormity of the problem has hit me. I was surprised that I panicked so badly, and that my skills were not sufficiently ingrained to react instinctively and cut the engine.

I think that this is a warning and I hope that anyone reading this will heed it. It was my fault, perhaps I should have paid more attention to the linkage but I was tired and it was the end of a busy and frustrating day. Luckily it was only the shed.

Comment from Doug - I have had a similar situation happen to me, but not in an AFV. I used to own a V8 Holden Commodore and was preparing for a long trip. I thought I would give it a brake test and took it out on the highway. The advantage of where I live is that if you be patient you can find an empty section of road and do a maximum effort stop. This proves the brake system and that there is no pull to one side after months of short distance town driving. It also serves to remind me just how much distance it takes to stop from 110km/h when a Kangaroo jumps out from behind a bush.
Anyway, I took the car up to 110km/h and stood hard on the brakes, there was a loudish "bang" and the engine went to full throttle. At this point I tried pushing for all I was worth and was barely winning the battle, due to not having any power assistance to the brakes. Being that the road was nice and clear I started experimenting, take foot off brake, engine revs drop to normal, foot on brake = engine revs at maximum! It was now fairly obvious what had failed - the brake booster.
What an incredibly dumb design!
The drive home was done quite slowly and using the handbrake, not a drama where I live, although the handbrake in most modern cars is in reality a parking brake and is no longer an "emergency brake". However had the failure occured at a busy intersection in town it could have been a different story and that scenario did not impress me. The trouble with switching off the engine in modern cars when in a panic is that you risk having the steering lock engage if you go just that one click too far.
Another incredibly dumb design - no detent position or such, like is fitted in Toyotas!

What I am assuming happens is that when the diaphragm fails (or the vaccuum hose to the carburetor/intake manifold) you get unrestricted air flow to the engine so it can rev as high as it wants. When I went and saw a mechanic and told him what happened he said "I get a similar story about once a month".

It always pays to know how to kill the motor in anything you drive for exactly this eventuality. If you have read my article about driving Andreas' Kettenkrad at Beltring 2000 you will see I got caught by an unfamiliar switch design and hence, when I drove Matt's Centurion, the first thing I asked him was "how do I kill the engine if something goes wrong"? End of Doug's comment

The next day was a rally, and as you can imagine there was little enthusiasm for a run. Anne and I put the top armour on and we set off. It was weird to drive her again, although she went fairly well. The mixture seemed a bit off and she was a bit chuggy. By the time we reached St Ive she was a bit sweeter and as usual it was a good day. The journey back was a little more eventful as we had a fuel starvation problem near home, but this rectified itself and did not cause too much of a problem. Someone videoed the ride home and this was fun, although I noted that the nearside track seemed to jump when we reversed back up the hill. I felt it through the hull, so maybe they need tensioning.

Before the next run I have a job to do!

To be continued.............

My thanks to Richard for such a detailed article, certainly a saga.

 

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