Tuesday, 11 December 2007

't Kreng's front suspension upgrade (old news)

As I am ill at home at the moment I’ve time to put some older info in my weblog which has been lying about but wasn't used yet. Might be old news put maybe someone finds some inspiration from it ...

Under the pretence off further improving the handling of 't Kreng I had a go at the front suspension last year. As I had ordered some new front brakes and they took a while to arrive I had some time to work out a new front setup. For this I used the following starting points;
  • Front struts with adjustable spring platforms;
  • Replace original thrust collar (part nr. UKC329) with a proper thrust bearing;
  • Use universal 2¼ inch coil springs, for easier choice of spring rates;
  • Stiffen up the front as much as possible ...

To start with I got myself an adjustable coil over kit for an Opel Corsa (as these had the smallest inside diameter from the available kits). After which I hacked up some perfectly good OS front struts ...


...and welded up the threaded tubes. As the inside diameter of the Corsa tubes still was slightly larger than the outside diameter of the struts I had to make up some slim rings. These went between the strut and the threaded tubes to centre these and fill the gap to allow for a better weld.
After the welding was done it was time to move my attention to the top of the conversion. As I had decided on some decent and simple "off-the-shelf" thrust ball-bearings (standard SKF item) combined with the 2¼ inch coil springs I needed something to house these. Something to replace the standard TR7 upper spring pan. A few hours behind the computer solved the problem ...


To keep the weight down as much as possible I used an aluminium alloy for the spring pans. And while I was working at the spring pans I thought it a good idea to also replace the sub frame mounting rubbers with solid aluminium alloy ones. Knowing someone who knows how to use a lathe certainly helps with this kind of work. The end product certainly looks good.




In the meantime the dampers and the springs from AVO had arrived. So as I now had all the parts for the suspension struts it was time to get them assembled which was rather straightforward.


And after that the (seemingly) long wait for the brakes to arrive so that I could put everything under the car. When they did arrive I started with dismantling the old suspension and brakes from the car. First thing to do was fit the alloy spacers between subframe and chassis leg. Here I found out that I had overlooked something. The original rubber mountings have steel inserts. The top ones of which were binned because the hole in the spacer was ø12mm. As a result the original lower inserts were too short, which is bad as you can't machine something on! So a pair of new inserts were made for the sub frame’s front lower mounting rubbers.


On the right the original one, on the left the new one.
I also used the new alloy spacers to lower the subframe and thus the engine by some 5 mm by simply making the spacers 5 mm thicker than the original ones. And as the suspension is completely adjustable any geometry changes resulting from this lowering can easily be adjusted.


With the subframe mountings sorted it was at last time to put the new struts and brakes on the car. As expected this was rather straightforward ...




So after everything was fitted it was time to bleed the brakes (and align the callipers at the same time). After which it was a matter of tightening the calliper mounting bolts and putting the wheels back on. Before I could start with any testing I first had to set the ride height properly. To get it were I wanted it I had to wind down the lower platforms quiet a lot though. As they are so far down they are only a few mm’s free from the inside tire wall, but then that's more than enough.


The odd thing is, on both sides the fitted length of the springs is more or less the same (225 lbs/inch, free length 254mm) being 181/179 mm respectively). Also the distance between lower spring platforms and axle are the same. But there is nevertheless a difference in ride height off 10 mm between left and right ...


But as the car doesn’t behave strange I still don’t worry too much about that ...

10CR2007 Day three

Having had a rather nice diner and fully rested we left the restaurant just after 10.00 pm. To start on the last and most difficult leg of this 10CR, the long nightly haul across Germany. From the 2005 edition we had learned that driving large (monotonous) stretches of Autobahn at night was a recipe for problems. That’s why Roger had worked out a nice and easy route, using secondary through roads (so called Bundesstraßen) as far as possible ...
We firstly headed over the Austrian Bundesstraßen in the direction of the little and rather picturesque German border town of Füssen. If we’d driven this road by daylight I could have posted several pictures with nice alpine views, but alas it was dark! Luckily the roads were in very good condition, with clear markers and nice flowing corners. So the driving was relative easy but nevertheless entertaining.
Despite missing an exit near Reutte we crossed into Germany in good time. As we didn’t fancy searching for fuel in middle of the night in deepest darkest Germany we first took a stretch of the A7, just to be sure we had enough fuel for the ”inland” stretch. This also gave us the opportunity for a little nap before carrying on .
We eventually left the A7 to join the B312 which we followed all the way till its end near Stuttgart. This was actually quite a nice road to drive. For the rest nothing much happened if it hadn’t been for this red GT6 standing beside the road in the middle of a small sleepy village. Turned out to be Don Cook who had some problems with his alternator, but thanks to his mobile phone the rescue forces were already on their way. And indeed they turned up within 5 minutes. After chatting a bit with them we carried on as there was nothing more for us to do then stand in the way.
The only downside of taking the Bundesstraßen instead of the Autobahn is that you’re passing lots of villages and small towns, and they all have permanent speed traps. Good to know, but waiting to get caught speeding nevertheless. While driving into the town of Bibberach over the B312 there was a speed limit of 70 kmh. Then the B312 turned left and the speed limit dropped to 50 kmh. The moment I saw this I also noticed that the traffic light a few hundred meters away changed to red. So I just let the car freewheel to the lights. Wrong idea as a flash by the side of the road proved ... bugger! I was doing less than 60 kmh. at the moment so I hope they won’t bother to sent it across the border. A German friend told me the fine won’t be more then € 15,00, I hope she’s right ...
To keep us awake there were some drunken youth’s (probably going home) who thought it rather pleasant to walk in the middle of the road in complete darkness !!!
But eventually, somewhere in the night, we reached Stuttgart where we joined the A8. By the time we passed Karlsruhe I could feel some sleep coming up. So after fuelling up we put the car in the car park and slept for an hour, before we hit the Autobahn for the last approximate 250 km to the Nürburgring. At dawn we had our last stop, this time for breakfast. After this we carried on to the Nürburgring where we arrived at exactly 8.00 am. Over the last hour or so the weather had really deteriorated in true Eiffel style, wet, windy and chilly. The few crews that had arrived were all looking slightly ... euhh ... sleepy ...


(To avoid humiliation I felt I had to make him unrecognisable :-)


As it was not really the best kind of weather to hang around for too long Roger and I decided to call it a day and decided to do the last bit of the route as per the roadbook. For those of the entrants that didn’t do this part through the German Eiffel, Luxemburg and the Belgium Ardennes, you really missed a very nice bit of driving! Luckily the weather cleared slightly and the roads dried up a bit, so we didn’t have to hang around too much. Which nearly resulted in a head on collision just before entering Luxemburg. While being chased by a local in some small hatchback I went into a lefthander a bit to spirited, clipping the corner too much. The guy coming from the other side was actual running wide so we more or less met head on in the centre of the road. Luckily for me easy to rectify, of the throttle and a short dab on the brakes and I was back where I belonged. When I looked in my mirrors I could just see that the other two cars just managed not to hit each other as they came to a standstill, but the chase was of.
After that it was into Luxemburg for a cheap fuel stop and over familiar roads up to the continental finish in Rolduc where we arrived just before 2.00 pm.
As there were no cars at the parking yet we thought we were first but it turned out that the manager at Rolduc had decided it was better to park the cars in the courtyard instead of the parking lot.


After putting the car to rest the only thing left to do was instructing some Triumph minded friends who were volunteering to help with directing everyone into the rather large complex, have a shower and make my way to the bar which opened at 4.00 pm. Till date waiting for pictures of that evening, saw lots of flashes but no pictures. The bar eventually closed, an hour before the last team arrived, at 1.00 am in the morning.

As we only were an hour’s drive from home we were in no hurry to get started next morning ...

Sunday, 2 December 2007

10CR2007 Day two ...

After breakfast in Dormoletto on Saturday morning it was time to start on the return journey. Although some teams first had to do some spannering before they set off ...


But by the time we left most of the entrants were on their way. Save for a lonely Scotsman who was left behind by Tim Bancroft ...


Again the weather was brilliant when we set of for the Alps. On our tail was Tim Hunt’s lovely white TR4, with Barry at the wheel. Plan was to drive together that day. The first part of the journey was over the A8/A4 motorways past Milan and Bergamo. Just after Bergamo we turned onto the S42 and into the foothills of the Alps. By this time we already had lost the white TR4 as they had taken another exit from the motorway near Milan. So alone again we headed deeper into the Alps until, just passed midday, we left the S42 for the S300 and passed through the village of Ponte di Legno. We were at the foot of Passo di Gavia.
Until recently large parts of this pass were just a gravel track up the side of the mountain. But even here times have changed, as the full length of the pass has now been surfaced with asphalt. They even went as far as digging a tunnel to prevent tourist from dropping of the face of the mountain. They could also have invested in some more solid crash barriers ...


The road itself was absolutely gorgeous, but probably due to the fine weather it was also rather crowded. Luckily nearly all the other traffic we encountered on the way up went the other way. Although passing this oncoming traffic could be rather tricky in places as the road is only one car wide...
But by 1.00 pm we arrived at the summit. As it was lunchtime that’s what we settled down for. So we ordered some lasagne which was sold out (as it always seems to be). Luckily there was more on the menu so we didn’t starve. During the lunch halt we shortly debated how to carry on. As we absolutely wanted “to do” the Stelvio we decided to carry on there and see how late we arrived at the top. Roger had figured out that it would take us a least 3 more hours to reach Cortina via the Stelvio. Which meant we wouldn’t reach Cortina till late in the afternoon. But first thing to do was getting down the Gavia ...


During the previous day the car had started making some slight noises that shouldn’t be there. First I thought it was a problem with the prop’ shaft, but as there was a slight judder/vibration in the steering wheel at certain speeds it was obvious something up front wasn’t as it should be. I did check a few things and I concluded that nothing really was very wrong or falling off.
Going down the Gavia I found out that the brake pedal had acquired a rather long pedal stroke before the brakes acted. Pumping the pedal would improve it a lot, so probably a wheel bearing on its way out. As I usually don’t carry spare bearings around, the only thing we could do was carry on and hope for the best. Which we did.
Halfway down the Gavia the brakes were tested indeed, they still worked. While coming out of a corner I saw two Porsche 911’s, a few bends down, coming up. But as I was backing of to make room for them, number three, which was a bit in front of the others, came flying round the next bend. I managed to get my car in between two of the Italian style crash barriers without damaging one of the cars. I think the Porsche wasn’t so lucky as I heard a rather nasty scraping sound, like rebuilding your bodywork on a rock face! As it was his own doing I saw no point in stopping and we made it to Santa Catherina Valfura without further incidents. Only 7 miles to Bormio and a few miles further to the foot of the Passo dello Stelvio.
There are actually three roads going up the Stilfsèrjoch (as it’s called by the German speaking inhabitants), One from the south and two from the north, one from Switzerland and one from Italy. We were coming up from the south side which is in my opinion the best driving road up this pass. This side is actually much wider in all aspects than the more famous north side. The south face also has the added bonus of some nice and very narrow tunnels. At some points they are less than two cars wide ...


We were again lucky on the ascend as there was hardly any traffic. Only a campervan that refused to pull over to let me pass. Luckily it was so slow that I could squeeze the car past it just after coming out of one of the hairpins. For the rest of the climb I can be short, very good fun. Even managed to slightly annoy a biker just under the summit.
At the top it was so crowded that we decided to just stop for a picture and carry on down the north slope and stop somewhere in the valley below for a drink.


A lot of people prefer the North face with its 48 hairpin’s for coming up the Stelvio, but unless there is absolutely no traffic in front of you, this will quickly become boring. If however you have a clean run up the mountain it’s a very rewarding drive indeed. But now we had to drive it from the summit down.
This time we had company from some other 10CR teams ...


... but they were quickly gone when we stopped for a little photo shoot at hairpin number 31.




From there it was rather straight sailing down. As we were now in the German speaking part and the weather was still very fine we decided to find ourselves a pub with a nice terrace, and order a nice pint of weißenbier. While enjoying the beer, the scenery and the weather we worked out all the options for the rest of the trip at a roadside pub in Sponding ...


As it was already 3.30 pm we decided it would be madness to carry on to Cortina or worse to Slovenia. So Roger came up with a rather nice alternative. On the previous edition the long and seemingly endless Autobahn stretch through Germany really was too tiring, so we decided to do it different. We would carry on along the S38 till Merano and from there head north into the Passeiertal and over the Timmelsjoch into Austria. Some of the other 10CR entrants that were passing while we enjoyed the beer clearly had other ideas as most of them turned left in to Switzerland.

The route sorted and the beer emptied we carried on towards Austria. The choice for the direct route over the Timmelsjoch was also prompted by the fact that this pass closes every evening at 20.00 h. But as we were on our way again at half past 4 that shouldn’t be a problem. We expected to be over the Austrian border by about 6.00 pm. Sadly no ...
To reach the Timmelsjoch we only had to follow the S38 through the Vinschau valley till Merano and from there drive north. Only thing we didn’t know is that this valley is teeming with apple orchards and it was harvest time. So the road was choked with little tractors, with hardly a chance to pass them. To make matters worse there was the odd accident which let to even more delays. But we did reach the foot of the Timmelsjoch in the end.

Being late proved to be a Godsend as there was almost no traffic at all. I have been over the Timmelsjoch before but this time really was great. Since last time the Italians had been busy so the tarmac on the south side was almost as smooth as the Austrian one, making for a very good blast up into the early evening light. But the higher we went the colder it got and just underneath the summit there were even some small patches of ice and snow. After a short stop to enjoy the fabulous views at the top ...






... we carried on into Austria. With just over 45 minutes to spare we crossed the barrier of the tollbooth and headed down into the Gurgltal. The second day was nearly at an end. After filling up the fuel tank in the ski resort of Sölden, we went in search of a nice typical Austrian restaurant which we eventually found in the village of Längenfeld, a few miles south of Ötz.
After a very nice meal, a good pint of beer and some coffee we were ready for the last leg of this journey, the long nightly haul through Germany ...