Tuesday 2 June 2015

Restoration Plan

So the objective is to complete the restoration of the BRM P160E in time for the Phillip Island (Victoria Australia) historic race meeting in early March 2016, with a shake down probably at Wakefield Park in Goulburn immediately prior.

The longest time frame will be the engine build so following the static display of the car at the HSRCA Retro speedfest on 6/7 June, the action plan is to:
  • Hoist up on mobile trolley
  • Strip down rear suspension (taking copious photographs and notes), drive train and brakes. 
  • Remove gearbox 
  • Disconnect oil lines and wiring
  • Lift out engine and send to Rodney Gibbs (Superior Automotive Services)
Whilst Rodney is striping down the engine (and conversing with Phil Reilly in the process) and sending engine parts off for crack testing, I will;
  • Dismount tyres from wheels
  • Send rear suspension, drive train and wheels to Stephen Hooker (MT&C Engineers) for crack testing, then while that is being done;
  • Dismantle front suspension
By perhaps mid to late July I should know what new engine components are required either because original items are worn or cracked or simply because it would be prudent to replace them as I intend to regularly compete in the car. Rick Hall advises it is most likely that many engine internals will be BRM made and numbered / stamped items and so all original parts will be retained for provenance and historical reasons.

Next step will be to order what will be a witheringly exhaustive list of engine components ((lets see, 2 springs per valve, 4 valves per cylinder, 12 cylinders - 96 springs), hopefully by end July. Rodney will also have sent off the fuel metering unit for refurbishment by then.

Stephen will have hopefully completed crack testing of the initial batch of rear suspension, drive train components and and wheels by early / mid July and I will pick these up and give him the front suspension components to crack test. Stephen may give me good news or bad news.......

Garry Simkin and myself will have dismantled the gearbox by then as well and will have determined which new internal components and gears / shafts are required. Hall and Hall have some in stock however I suspect that it will be in my interests to also ensure I have an Australian gear manufacturer tooled up and available to make me different ratios and shafts if necessary for peace of mind regarding timely availability. Four or five weeks lead time for new gears and shafts I presume.

By late July we should also have removed the bag tanks, and sent these off to Queensland to have new items manufactured. Several weeks lead time for these.

Hopefully by late July / early August the new set of magnesium wheels will have arrived from Hall and Hall. If there are any cracks in the original wheels I am hoping that David Mawer will be able to repair them so I will have two sets of wheels, which makes managing tyres a bit simpler.

The new (spare) spark box (new internals in an original casing) will also hopefully have arrived from Hall and Hall by then as well. The new box will require installation of a different trigger on the engine and I am hoping Rodney may be able to work out how to keep the existing trigger in place as well so we can use either the original spark system or the new. I am keen to retain the coil externally mounted as it is now, rather than have it in the spark box as is the case in modern spark boxes (for DFV motors).

So by early August I should know what we are doing with the engine plus gearbox and what suspension / drive shaft items are either cracked or excessively worn and which items must be replaced (retaining the originals).

A quick visual inspection of suspension arms indicates that the RH front lower link has a bow in it and the upper LH front arm has a dent which may or may not be serious. It will be in my interests to have jigs made and ask Elwyn Bickley to manufacture replacement front suspension arms anyway, even if I am able to continue to use the originals. The rears all seem OK from a quick visual inspection. New rod end rose joints all round however I suspect as I am suspicious of these components after heavy use.

The drive shafts are beautiful forged components and I am hoping like hell that these are not cracked. There will need to be new bearings in the front and rear uprights of course and new seals / pistons in the brake calipers all round, all of which Garry Simkin could do in his sleep. It may be of benefit to fit new rotors, I will see what the condition of the originals are like, they seem OK at first glance. I will keep originals for reference but replace all the flexible brake lines preferably using the original fittings if possible.

So, by September the new engine components will hopefully have arrived, we may also decide to send the cylinder heads over to Phil Reilly to rebuild.

By October I am also hoping that a new spare fiberglass front nose will also have arrived from Hall and Hall, who have the mould.

With the engine and gearbox out and all suspension removed by late July I will then be able to look at the wiring harness. This is an original cloth wrapped insulation loom and I will most likely need to have a new harness made, as I have noticed how brittle some of the insulation has become. I will also remove and send the instruments (dials / gauges) out to have them checked over and repair / calibrate as required.

If all is going well and there is nothing catastrophically wrong with the engine and there are no holdups with supply of new internals, then by early to mid October Rodney will be well advanced in the engine reassembly and Garry & I will have mastered the workings and assembly of the BRM gearbox, fitted with new internals as required and be ready to do quick gear ratio changes at the track as and when required, just like a Hewland!

The body poses my first serious conundrum. The car was sold at the BRM Collection auction by Christie's in 1981 in the Marlboro BRM colours it is in now. The paint work (particularly the white) has faded and is chipped, quite badly in some areas. The nose and rear wing have very definitely seen better days. But that is of course part of the charm and patina of this very original car. Some of the livery is hand painted and Rick Hall advises me that that was often done by BRM during the day. So is it a full respray or merely some touch ups? Whilst BRM were running short of funds by end 1974 would it be more representative of the Marque to fully respray so that the car is illustrative of how it presented in the late 1973 season on the grid while driven by Lauda? Period photos show the car to be bright and shiny. This will need some deep consideration but by August the bodywork should also be sent to the painters for either a touch up or a respray.

There is a similar question on the finish of the suspension items. Rick Hall advises that back in 1973 many of the items were Cadmium plated and the finish appears to be this for many items but this is a toxic process and I understand has been largely phased out in the UK and may also be no longer available in Australia. Wikipedia has some useful advice however: "If environmental concerns matter, in most aspects cadmium plating can be directly replaced with gold plating as it shares most of the material properties". So, should the suspension components be freshly plated (Electrolysis Nickle perhaps rather than Gold) or merely cleaned and polished as they are?

Fortunately the exhaust pipes appear to be in reasonable condition and do not seem to have suffered unduly from corrosion however that may prove incorrect when they are removed. If corroded then hopefully Elwyn Bickley will be prepared to take on the complex tubular puzzle challenge.

By late October I should have the body back and be installing the new wiring loom, installing new bag tanks and refitting the front suspension and rebuilt brakes as well as extending the pedal position (I am a touch taller than the drivers of this car in 1973/74). Perhaps by early November the engine will be rebuilt and that may also be reinstalled and then in reverse order remount the rebuilt gearbox  and then the rear suspension, drive train & brakes.

Perhaps by early January it may be possible to lift the car down onto the ground in order to setup the suspension.

Late January - start the engine at Rodney's and chassis dyno. A glass of red that night to celebrate hopefully. February a track day or two at Wakefield Park to become accustomed to the car and check suspension settings. Early March 2016 - Phillip Island.

We will see how it unfolds.