A bit of music from the lamented Radio Blog Club

Le Français

Toujours, je suis désolé pour mes amis( et amies) français(es), mais il est difficile pour moi d'écire en français. Peut-être un jour...
S.V.P. regardez ce LIEN

Monday, December 31, 2007

All the Best for 2008

Thank you all for following my ramblings here; I genuinely hope that all of you have at least found something interesting, thought-provoking, or even irritating in these pages - so long as it wasn't boring.

For this year I have included something which has become over the years an extraordinary tradition in Germany and a number of other countries - though not France (perhaps something to do with the advice that appears in every booze advertisement: Consommez avec modération). So despite the fact that this is Fulvias in France, here is something pour les autres that will be enjoyed by millions around the world today.

It is a little piece of English slapstick featuring Freddie Frinton; so established has it become in Germany that between 1:30 today and 12:00 tomorrow, there will be no less than 37 broadcasts of it there!

A bientôt

Friday, December 28, 2007


Je t'aime, je l'aime!

A bientôt


Source: here

The French Government has now issued a form of words, reported by the BBC here

As I suspected, they are going to allow us to welcome the new year and after that, fines!!

A bientôt

Les Fonctionnaires

Source: here

A sympathiser has emailed me a list of the various fonctionnaires that I understand will be harassing French smokers as from 2nd January.

Les officiers et agents de police judiciaire, inspecteurs et contrôleurs du travail, agents du ministère de la Santé et assimilés: médecins inspecteurs de santé publique, ingénieurs du génie sanitaire, inspecteurs de l'action sanitaire et sociale, ingénieurs d'études sanitaires, techniciens sanitaires, ingénieurs et techniciens territoriaux, inspecteurs de salubrité de la ville de Paris et inspecteurs de salubrité de la préfecture de police.

It appears to me that these people have far more important things to do; I hope that their various duties will not be neglected...

Source: here

A bientôt

French Anti-Smoking Law

You might have noticed that my announcement at the top of the page is now headed "Correction".

Following the chat on this subject (see Chat box on the right of the page) it appears that some official "made a mistake". Accordingly, café society in France ends not immediately after midnight on 1st January, but on 2nd January.

I have to say that the idea of the CRS and the numerous other divisions of the French Police bludgeoning innocent French smokers celebrating (what?) at the beginning of the New Year and dragging them off to the cells is not a scenario that I find particularly convincing, so perhaps the "mistake" was deliberate?

I am also informed that there will be Special Police to enforce this inhumane legislation; it is of course, classically French to find a reason to employ even more fonctionnaires as it is, despite President Sarkozy's protestations to the contrary, always necessary to maintain French public spending at the highest level possible! (This policy keeps Les Syndicats (trades unions) happy).

A bientôt

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Double Your Money?

Well it seems that you could have! Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing as we all know, but on reflection, it doesn't seem as though Apple was so much of a risk; after all it's been around for a few years!

Again, this comes from Fledermaus News...

A bientôt

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Apple iPhone: Don't try this at home!

Source: here

The Apple (tm) iPhone (tm) has attracted enormous news interest since its announcement. First reactions that I have read have been most favourable, and it seems that Apple has a hit.

Most of us have just seen a picture like the one above, but Techrepublic has done us a favour: they bought one and dismantled it, producing a photographic record of the procedure.

Read all about it here!

Source: here
A bientôt

AdSense - another HTML headache

You might have noticed a new box at the top of the page marked "AdSense".

This contains targetted advertising, which I hope will prove interesting for some of you.

However, adding the HTML has changed the appearance of this blog and I have no idea how to restore it! Still, for the long-sighted ones it will be easier to read at least!

A bientôt

Monday, December 24, 2007

As I was saying...

It seems that I am not alone in my views:

I wrote:

But now here's something sinister: Apple Computer offers a friendly and informal face to the public, it likes to contrast itself with what it suggests (to me at least) as the stuffy, grey and dull Microsoft.
[... ]
Now I am not suggesting that other big organisations do not do or try to do, similar things, but it's the contrast between the projected image and the reality that made my jaw drop. I really should know better, but there it is!

Now read this:

[...] Second, the ThinkSecret story provides a sombre reminder about the danger of being taken in by clever corporate PR. Apple has brilliantly established an image as a company that is not only cool and chic, but also on the side of the consumer. Its technology provides terrific toolkits for user-generated publishing and movie-making. It was the first company to offer consumers legal music downloads on reasonable terms. It portrays its customers as free-thinking libertarians compared with the serried ranks of Microsoft serfs. And so on.

It's a great story, but nobody should be taken in by it. Apple is as single-minded as Microsoft, Oracle, IBM or Google. Jobs may wear velvet gloves, but they're lined with lead.


You can read the complete article here, once again, thanks to Fledermaus News

A bientôt

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Sicilian Avenue Dec 1998 - photo by me

I should like to wish all my readers the very best for Christmas.

A game or two is quite traditional at this time of the year, and if you like games but do not feel inclined to vaporise the aliens or practise electronic karate or pursue monsters and dragons in some mediaeval dungeon then I have something for you, sent to me by a friend a few minutes ago.

It is called "know your world" and is great fun. I scored 110 in my first attempt (you are notified of your "traveller IQ" at the end of the game).

Enjoy it!

A bientôt

In the Interests of Balance

In my last post I mentioned Apple in a not entirely flattering connexion.

To preserve a sense of impartiality, here's a piece about Microsoft from The Korea Times, again courtesy of Fledermaus News.

A bientôt

More Computer News

With regard to Vista, well I am still using it, and whilst I may have got used to it - a bit -I still find it irritating. Canon have been most helpful in getting my scanner up and running, but what a struggle compared with installing it on XP.

Oh yes, and my girlfriend's wi-fi. I reported the struggle we had trying to make it work here. Well she (being cleverer than I) finally solved it, no thanks to the so-called instructions. It turns out that wi-fi operates on a number of channels. A "quick installation" depends upon the user having a crystal ball with which the appropriate channel - there is a choice of twelve - may be determined. The crystal ball is also helpful in informing the user that there are indeed channels to start with...

But now here's something sinister: Apple Computer offers a friendly and informal face to the public, it likes to contrast itself with what it suggests (to me at least) as the stuffy, grey and dull Microsoft.

Here, courtesy of Fledermaus News is another side to Apple. There are more Apple stories to be found on Fledermaus's news feeds.

Now I am not suggesting that other big organisations do not do or try to do, similar things, but it's the contrast between the projected image and the reality that made my jaw drop. I really should know better, but there it is!

A bientôt

Isn't it Lovely?

Source: here

Do it yourself?

I don't think so. Despite having this wonderful picture to hand, I am not yet able to offer servicing and overhaul of Napier Sabre engines!

A bientôt

One Way to Attack the Knock Problem

No more worries about inexact ignition timing: now it's possible to programme the ignition to suit your own Fulvia.

This illustration comes from Mecaparts; it shows a reasonably-priced programmable ignition system that can be easily adapted to the Fulvia. Of course it is in French, but this is Fulvias in France! It is the system fitted to my Norman client's car about which I wrote here. My French is not nearly good enough to offer to translate the entire site, but I can probably help with specific queries if you care to email me.

If you visit the Mecaparts Site here, you will find a number of Acrobat files which give full information about the installation and programming of the system. It can be calibrated up to 11,900 rpm which should be enough for any Fulvia! On my client's car, the advance weights had been removed and the distributor locked (i.e. the rotor arm can no longer move relative to the distributor shaft) this is obviously necessary since all the advance is controlled by the electronics.

To me this seems to be an excellent solution for the Fulvia - especially as I doubt if many wish to go the route of complete engine management. Here is a system that could be installed by any competent amateur. Programming however requires a certain amount of knowledge and it would probably be best to set the the system up to an approximation of the original advance "curve" (some straight lines actually) and then take the car to the rolling road to establish the ideal parameters which could then be programmed into the system - or done on the spot with a laptop.

Should the car in question be further developed, the system could easily be re-calibrated to suit. And of course you would have the capacity to deal with any eccentric changes in fuel quality that may be implemented should the "Green" lobby decide to make things difficult for old cars.

Perfect really!

I have also found something interesting regarding the mixture side of things; more about this soon.

A bientôt

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Private Eye to the Future

Private Eye has a fine record in anticipating events and indeed, nemesis for certain individuals; there is often in the magazine a piece called "Curse of the Eye" where the Eye's predictions which have subsequently become true are reported.

Source: Private Eye No 1120

Depressingly this cartoon appears to represent the status quo. From my point of view things are not going to get better...

Bon Noël à tous, et à bientôt

New Post

Apologies for the delay, the new post has now appeared, several posts "ago". In other words you have to scroll down. I am so sorry, but as I wrote earlier, it is not my fault.

To help you find it, here is a link.

My girlfriend was indeed able to help: she has reserves of patience that I cannot begin to comprehend, despite my having worked on Fulvias for 25 years. In the end I rather - or further - lost my temper and deleted one word: "embed" and added another: "object" each with those infuriating chevrons, and lo and behold, the bloody thing worked!

A bientôt

Friday, December 21, 2007

On smoking and aero engines

I mentioned in an earlier post Roy (later Sir Roy) Fedden boss and chief at Bristol engines, in connexion with a biography of the great if sometimes eccentric, engineer.

In this book, the story is told of Lord Beaverbrook, proprietor of the Daily Express and also Minster of Aircraft Production during the Second World War. His mission was to put a rocket up the backsides of the aircraft manufacturers - which indeed he did.

On a visit to Bristol''s engine department, shown around by Fedden, he remarked (in an effort no doubt to raise workforce morale) "Why are none of the men smoking?" Fedden replied "You can't have chaps working to a tenth of a thou (0.0001" = 0.0025mm) with a fag dangling from their lips".

But at least they could have a "fag" in peace after the shift was over with their pint in the pub. Their descendants are now denied this simple pleasure.

A bientôt

Quick Note - Sabre again!

In this thread on a forum I found, some kind soul has scanned a set of pages from Setwright's book "The Power to Fly" which gives a bit more of the story.

Especially interesting on fuels.

A bientôt

L.J.K. Setwright & the "Sabre" engine

Now thoroughly gripped by the subject, I have found a super article about the Napier Sabre Engine.

The original and iconoclastic L.J.K. Setwright was obviously as smitten as I am! The article is replete with his interesting and highly technical observations - in particular note his comments about combustion chamber shapes. The horsepower figures, apparently from a reliable source more than confirm what I wrote the other day, but Setwright is, I am sure, incorrect in his observations about thinwall bearings, which he credits to Napier. These were invented by the Clevite Corporation in the U.S.A. and it was Tony Vandervell who, by staying on the reception sofa at Clevite's offices for two days in or around 1932, finally got them to give him the European licence to make the bearings in his works at Acton, west London.

The article also "lifts the lid" on the acrimony and bitter competition between the aero-engine makers in England, whilst the country was fighting for its life. I have read the biography of Roy Fedden, boss and designer at Bristol engines and the author, whose name I regret escapes me, endeavoured to fight Bristol's corner, rather as Setwright has tried to do for Napier.

A bientôt

More Smoke

Those of you who had a look at the video I posted on this subject will have deduced, probably correctly, that the French fumeurs et fumeuses are resigned to their loathsome fate.

Not so Les Allemands it seems, if this article from the International Herald Tribune is to be believed.

Good luck to them: it is worth remembering that it was one A. Hitler of the N.S.D.A.P. who wanted a "smoke-free Germany" by 1941 - and he failed - ha-ha!

A bientôt.

More "Tempestuous" Stuff

The Tempest has taken me over.

As I said, it is one of my favourite aircraft. My excuse for including the clip (from You Tube) is the glorious sound of the 24-cylinder, 2000+ HP, sleeve-valved, supercharged, 150-octane-guzzling Napier Sabre engine.

This film is obviously an Air Ministry training feature intended to obviate "friendly fire", but there's some good flying, great sounds and the whole thing, given the epoch, was very well done I think. Imagine the work - without computer imaging!

A bientôt

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Knock, knock, knock + an Apology

Source: here

I must have been asleep!

In my recent article about knock, I featured a picture of a Hawker Tempest, one of my favourite aeroplanes. Unfortunately, the version shown obviously has a radial engine, and was therefore, one of the Bristol-engined variants - my extracts at the end of the article related to the "other" engine.

The picture above shows a "proper" Tempest, fitted with the staggeringly complex Napier Sabre engine - the one that used the 150-octane fuel. For those who do not know about this, it was technically fascinating, but really a nightmare for anyone who had to do anything with it. It was a sleeve-valved, 24-cylinder, supercharged job, with the cylinders arranged in "H" formation - i.e. two flat-12s arranged one above the other. It was very powerful - I recall reading somewhere that Napier achieved 100 BHP per litre with a prototype, a staggering achievement in an aero-engine. The site (devoted to the Tempest) that provided the picture is here.

However, complexity has its price of course. It was said that during the Second World War, a horsepower from Napier cost the British taxpayer £3. A horsepower from Bristol cost £2, whilst a horsepower from Rolls-Royce cost just £1!

Napier (formerly a car manufacturer) was acquired by the English Electric Company in 1943; the final aircraft effort was even more outrageous: this was a cruciform ("X") engine; both supercharged and turbocharged, it produced over 4000hp, but jets had arrived so that, as they say, was that. Napier did have success later however with the fascinating "Deltic" engine, used in railway locomotives and also I think, in ships. A diesel, this was triangular in section as its name suggests. There were three crankshafts (one at each corner) and six (opposed) pistons per row. Think about it!

Meanwhile, following William's comment on the last article, I am looking into ignition modifications. If my searches are succesful I shall be back on the thorny "knock" problem.

A bientôt.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Black Day for France

There are of course, those who would disagree with my headline.

I refer to 1st January 2008. This is the day that the French government has selected for the banning of smoking in public places in the République.

On arriving here, nearly three years ago, I had a nice smug feeling: I thought that the French would never tolerate the kind of health fascism so fashionable elsewhere in the European Union (shortly to become another République). I was wrong.

However, as part of the obsequies for the passing of a great era I attach here a video (source which is a pretty good summation of how all the powerless ones feel.

I am with them - 100%

A bientôt

Monday, December 17, 2007

A New French Blog

Here's a nice idea: a news blog based in Paris, so English readers, here's a chance to brush up your French. It's called "Fledermaus News"

Now that Gordon has signed the Constitution - whoops! - what IS it called this week? - you never know what language you'll have to use in five years' time!

An attractive feature about this blog is all the news stories attached; I spent rather a long time there - these are largely in English you'll be pleased to hear!

A bientôt

Friday, December 07, 2007

Something Creative -

Source here

The capacity of original artistic creativity to suprise, never fails to amaze - and indeed to surprise - me.

You can see many examples of Terry's work on his blog; I think that he is incredibly talented.

No Fulvia yet though...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Suck, squeeze, bang, blow - and knocking

"Where's the next gas station with 150-octane?"
Source here

It's been a long time since I wrote anything vaguely technical here and I apologise for this to my visitors. However, needs must and I have been busy with a number of things.

First the eccentric heading to this post. The first four words are a colloquial reference to the four-stroke or Otto, cycle - that which powers all our Fulvias. The fifth word owes its presence ot the fact that over the past months I have received a number of emails from Fulvia 1600 owners who complain of "pinking" (known in the U.S. as "pinging").

Despite what you will hear in the pub, "pinking" is DETONATION. Detonation is a Bad Thing and should therefore be addressed as soon as possible. I have been doing a little research in order to provide some reliable information for you in the hope that you will be able to avoid this dangerous phenomenon.

First we have to distinguish between detonation and pre-ignition - in my many years around cars and their owners, I have long been aware that considerable confusion exists about these.

Pre-ignition occurs as a result of something in the chamber being so hot that the mixture ignites before the spark. Typical causes are incorrect heat range of plug, a red-hot sharp edge in a badly modified combustion chamber, or glowing carbon residues. A typical symptom of pre-ignition is "running-on" after the engine has been switched off.

Detonation occurs when the advancing flame front at the time of ignition causes some of the remaining mixture in the combustion chamber to ignite spontaneously - i.e. before the flame front reaches it, so an explosion results. There are various causes of detonation. The best known are excessive compression ratio for the type of fuel being used, lean mixture, poor chamber design, bad gas-flowing, excessive ignition advance or any combination of some or all of these.

It is important to understand that the real danger point is that where maximum torque (or indeed Brake Mean Effective Pressure) is developed, for it is at this point where the engine is at its most volumetrically efficient - that is the cylinders contain the largest quantity of mixture achieved in the engine's rev-range. So putting your foot flat on the floor at around 4500 - 5000 rpm in a Fulvia is the time when real trouble might be expected.

Another fact that is often not understood is that a petrol engine's compression ratio, despite being quoted in the specification as say 10.5/1 in the case of a 1600 Fulvia, is variable! It is of course controlled by the accelerator pedal - when the throttles are shut, there is effectively nothing to compress. I recall driving in Italy in my own Fulvia (C.R. about 11/1) and being very frustrated because unlike elsewhere in Europe 98 octane petrol cannot be purchased - only Shell garages have "proper" petrol but at a price. So with the Fulvia's rather small tank, it was necessary to fill up with the so-called "premium" 95 octane stuff. Just to be on the safe side, I was careful to avoid large throttle openings and thus avoided problems.

I have found that when 1600s "pink" or knock, it is nearly always at low revolutions when accelerating. Two possible causes (and a third I shall come to in a moment) suggest themselves to me. First the miserable Solex 42DDHF carburettor; my readers well know my views on this excuse for a carburettor. Every one I have seen has enormous play in its spindles. this causes the uneven idle problems that has caused many to install the unsuitable 35mm Dell'Ortos which are perfect on 1300s (the Dell'Orto is a proper carburettor). The point is that when in "pick-up" mode the Solex provides fuel via the idle circuit and into the progression drillings which may be seen adjacent to the butterfly. Additional air entering via the slack spindle bushes may be enough to cause problems. Another possibility is timing chain slack which causes severe ignition timing variations. The third idea comes from a Carroll Smith book. he advised people to buy their fuel from a busy station that has a large turn-over as it is less likely that some of the more volatile elements of the fuel blend will have evaporated by the time of purchase. Thos considering gas-flowing should remember not to polish the ports to mirror finish but to leave them slightly rough; this prevents fuel dropping out of atomisation. My own car has Lucas mechanical fuel injection and despite all the modifications, I have never had pinking problems, which suggests that the carburettors and/or the inlet tracts may be in part to blame.

There is of course, plenty of information on the Web about this subject: Wikipedia is a good start. The technically-minded will be interested in two articles here and here. The two pieces are links from the Wikipedia article. In the same article there is a link to a company offering water-methanol injection; this was pioneered by the Luftwaffe during the war and greatly improved the performance of their Focke-Wulf 190 aircraft.

And talking about aircraft, if you feel you have problems feel sorry for the developers of the Hawker Tempest. Here's a quote from a footnote from this Wikipedia site:

Early Tempests suffered some engine problems mainly due to the 150 octane fuel being inadequate. One fault discovered was a problem with the propeller constant speed unit, which allowed the Sabre engine to go well beyond permissible rpm, leading to seizure or explosion. There were also problems with the induction system, the lubricating system, and the carburettor air intake (a simple backfire could lead to an explosion).

Any chance of Shell coming up with some 150-octane fuel I wonder? It would most likely be "adequate" for a Fulvia!

A bientôt.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More ebay

Last chance!

I am selling my last two sets of bearings: 1600 Fulvia big-ends by Clevite and another set of Federal Mogul main bearings

I also have a 1600 rev-counter for sale too.

Hurry, hurry, hurry!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bearing Up

Well all the bearing sets sold on ebay, and buyers got terrific bargains e.g. Vandervell main bearing set just £36 - that's a lot less than half what one would pay normally.

I now have two more sets up on ebay: here and here.

They are running out so don't miss this chance.

Meanwhile perhaps one of my readers has a copy of or access to, an old Clevite Bearing Catalogue? I have two sets ofnew big-end bearing shells - I am sure they are for an old Lancia model, but not Fulvia 1300 as one is marked, they are too big. The part number of both is CB 5006, one is standard, the other 0.020" (0.508mm).

I look forward to finding out what they are.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Spare Parts

Hello again after a long silence - sorry but I have had to occupy myself with rather a lot of other things lately.

Anyway, I have some Fulvia engine bearings for sale on ebay. I probably do not have to tell you that these are not always easy to find.

Here are some links:

1 2 3 4 5

All the best


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Plug and Play? I think not...

Yes, another rant about computing, this time, peripherals.
I am at present in Paris, staying for a few days with my copine. By virtue of her work she is a consummate computer user. For the business she is starting she has bought a laptop and of course decided that this should be provided with a "Wi-fi" facility. To this end she has bought a pair of USB devices which are supposed to provide wireless functionality.
We installed these yesterday, and of course they don't work; "plug and play" - one of the greatest all-time lies. Typically for this kind of thing, Windows says "the device is functioning correctly". No it isn't: it doesn't work!
Many of you might remember Bill Gates's boast that had cars progressed the way computers had over the same period, we would have cars that would do 1000 miles on a gallon of fuel etc.
This sort of thing makes my blood boil: as far as I know only the computer industry seems able to get away with murder: imagine if you bought eggs that were merely empty shells, a new car with no engine, a washing machine that did not wash. What about a surgeon who sewed you up leaving your brain on the floor of the operating theatre? How long would the purveyors of such goods and services stay in business?
And yet so much rubbish is sold for computers and computing. I can recall several such experiences myself: a new printer that wouldn't work at all, another that worked for two months (both were EPSONS - I should have remembered Barry Waterhouse's famous dictum "you don't learn anything from the second kick of the mule") and of course Bluetooth, which doesn't work full stop. Another instance: according to the blurb in WIndows "help" all I have to do is plug in an Ethernet cable and my computers will "talk to each other". No they won't...
And yes, I have heard the computer experts' jokes about "problem lies between keyboard and chair", but I shouldn't have any problems: the suppliers are to blame, not me.
With the honourable exception of HP, whose support service is excellent, most of the help offered or provided is pathetic. Especially bad in this respect is Open Office; the support facilty is crammed with questions in esoteric technical language. Register a problem in simple language, with examples provided as I did, and get a shirty message back saying one did not formulate the problem correctly. Thanks Open Office - for nothing.
To summarise, my grievance is that if an organisation supplies goods then they should work - immediately without the presence of a highly-trained, experienced and expensive specialist. I do not want to hear e.g. "well, these are complex matters". This is NOT my problem, it is THEIR problem: if they supply goods to the public then they should work, period.
Cars are complex; they work, so computer industry do your job properly and stop supplying rubbish.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


This is a popular subject - well it seems to be judging by the amount of emails I receive from Fulvia owners keen to extract more power, better brakes, more grip and so on from their cars.

Since many are naturally keen to keep their ideas to themselves, my lips remain sealed, but I have seen some lovely things on my computer's screen

Perhaps some of you would care to share your developments with those reading this blog.

Email me on

I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, October 08, 2007

VISTA ("tm")

Hello again after a long gap. I have been quite busy and also rather lacking in inspiration, though thanks to one of my regular visitors, I have a Fulvia idea or two.

This piece (rant) is another that does not concern our favourite motor-car; it is about computers. Since one way or another, all of you must be using a computer to read this, I feel justified in claiming to be at least relevant.

Here’s what my dictionary says about VISTA:

vi’sta n. long narrow view as between rows of trees; long succession of remembered or anticipated events etc. Mental prospect or retrospect, (opened up new vistas or a new vista to his ambition); hence ~ed (~ad) a. [It. = view (visto seen, p.p. of sedere see f. L. Videre)]

A few things to ponder here: I especially like “long narrow view” whilst “long succession of [...] anticipated events” is to me, profoundly depressing.

No doubt you will have guessed that I have just acquired a new computer, and so I have. A nice thing I suppose, with lots of memory, a huge disk drive and dual-core processor etc. All well and good but for effing VISTA.

What a con! Virtually nothing works with it; most of those software CDs which one has stored carefully (or in a plastic bag in my case) are useless or virtually so. Nearly all those old friends, programs that were perfectly satisfactory, will not work in VISTA. I prefer not to mention the hardware position… Even worse, being in France, I have the French version, which I suppose is good for my French, if not for the migraines. And guess what? Uncle Bill will only provide other languages if one has one of the top-of-the-range versions of the system. Stingy I say. And, every time you want to do something, there’s the pop-up asking for authorisation, followed by yet another question.

Oh yes, VISTA looks nice and there is a good HELP section, but what’s the point? Apparently MS committed $500,000,000 just for the launch of VISTA. Oh dear; all that money (never mind what it actually cost) for a wash-out.

It seems that I have come late on the scene: Microsoft has delayed the putting to death of XP from January to June next year, following what appear to be howls of anguish from the professionals and perhaps mugs like me (if MS actually listens to us virtual cannon-fodder).

As soon as I can arrange it, this computer is going to be formatted – yes, the hell with it, XP is going in and VISTA can rot in the recycle bin.

You have been warned.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Radio Blog Club

Hello again after rather a long gap. Fulvia fans may care to know I am in the throes of drafting some new stuff for them, but in the meantime, I decided to post one of my non-car articles.

Those of you who have enjoyed at least some of the eclectic selections of music I include hereabouts might be interested in Radio Blog Club.

It is Radio Blog Club that provides the means whereby I can add music to this page. It is free and easy to use and in addition, one can build one's own virtual juke-box.

On this subject I have decided that Fats Domino's "Fatman" is to be a permanent fixture here - I make no apology for this!

Happy listening

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Promises, promises!

I have been promising on the Viva-Lancia forum to post pictures of two tools useful when working on Fulvia engines.
The first is a modified piston-ring compressor. With standard piston rings, normally a compressor is not necessary, but with the thin rings fitted on some pistons (1mm, 1,5mm and 3mm rather than 1.5mm, 2mm and 4mm) I have found that breakages are possible - especially with the very fragile oil control rings. You will see that the compressor has been cut (ground actually) to match the angle of the vee.

The cutter is used for widening the valve clearance pockets in pistons when larger valves are fitted. It is made from a spare valve, of a suitable size of course with the aid of an angle grinder. It is easy to use: just insert in the guide, mount the head onto the engine with a couple of dowel bolts and with a battery drill apply rotation and very gentle pressure. Less than 30 seconds is usually plenty to provide a new pocket in exactly the right place. There is not normally any need to deepen the pocket. It is a good idea to smear a little grease to catch the small amount of swarf created, so that it may be collected afterwards.

One problem might be to find a suitable valve to make the cutter. I was lucky: I found a 40mm valve with the necessary 7mm stem. Most modern 7mm stem valves are for four-valves-per-cylinder engines and tend to be too small.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Pour Les Fumeurs

Source: Here

Further to my post of 1st July concerning SMOKING, CM of Jouraprèsjour has told me about a splendid group in Austria. The website may be found HERE

Kick the nanny habit!!

[It is against the law to smoke on this blog, but I do anyway, so raspberries all round]

Source: Here

Fulvia Mid-Engined Special: an Update

For more recent readers, the original articles on this car were HERE and HERE.

Robert the owner, is not a man for standing still. He has decided that fuel-injection is the way forward. We did exchange a few emails on this topic, I pointing out the expense and complexity etc.

However, not to be deterred, Robert pressed on and sourced a set of Japanese motor-cycle injection. His immediate problem was how to mount this onto the Fulvia inlet manifold. This was solved by the very nice piece of machining shown here..

When assembled, as the pictures show, the installation looks extremely good. I am waiting to hear how this will all be programmed etc., but I suspect that the results will be excellent.

Even more radically, the latest idea is to invert the inlet manifold enabling downdraught inlet and providing plenty of cold air.

That 500kg 1300cc car will be even quicker than when I had a ride in it.

More in due course.

A New Client

I mentioned recently that I had made a trip to Normandy to attend to a Fulvia.

The client is new in a sense in that he is new from the point of view of my working on his car, but in fact he was a customer of Evolution Engineering. He purchased several items from us including our exhaust manifold and a pair of the special dampers that I have on my own car.

Since the closure of Evolution, we have remained in contact and finally we got to meet.

The car is quite interesting. It is a 1600 SII but I suspect it might be one of the 200 or so SII “540s” i.e. not the conventional Lusso. The owner told me that when he acquired the car it was fitted with steel doors – but with non-opening quarter lights which is most unusual. Only the very first Fulvia coupes had such doors. More mysterious is the Fanalone block, easily identified by the (redundant) alternator mounts. I think that he will investigate the chassis number!

The owner had had the engine rebuilt at considerable expense, for example the specially made camshafts which cost him a great deal of money! The firm that rebuilt it appear to have made a good if rather costly job of it.

An interesting item fitted by the company was the programmable ignition, something I have always wanted to have on my car. The blue computer lead socket on the right of the box may been clearly seen in the picture. With this equipment it is possible to set the advance for each 100 rpm step, using a simple Excel spreadsheet. This of course could be done on a rolling road with a laptop. One of the advantages of the system is the ease of installation. There are no external sensors as is the norm with such systems, just a “chopper” in the distributor. The mechanical advance weights and springs are removed and the rotor carrier is locked to the drive shaft. Whilst elaborate sensors etc. are a better route, I believe that this system makes for an excellent compromise and a great improvement over the conventional type of system.

The programmable ignition unit

The owner had recently fitted a replica “works” inlet manifold together with a new pair of Solex ADDHE 45 mm carburettors. These carburettors were considered by many experts to be very good, but sadly Solex introduced them rather late and not so long before the company went bust.

He had had a great deal of trouble with the manifold. He told me first of mis-aligned ports and then of appalling porosity. He had had shown great resourcefulness in solving these problems, which for an item costing about £300 he should not have had to do, in my opinion.

The 45mm Solexes

He met me at the station and drove back quite briskly; the car felt as though it had good potential and felt solid. There were however flat spots. Attempting to cure these by increasing the static advance setting resulted in both a much quicker car but appalling pinking. Lacking the information for the ignition there was nothing I could do in this regard, but some time spent on the carburettors produced a most worthwhile improvement. Now, the car started much more readily, but with the overlap of the camshafts and the large carburettors, idling was not as it should be. The problem was that we had no data for the ignition and neither did we have the means to re-program it; it was obvious to me that increased static advance was necessary with a slower increase to follow. There was also a suspicion that at around maximum torque (4500 – 5000) the engine was a little rough suggesting that there was perhaps a little too much there. The only proper answer is a rolling road of course. I believe that the owner will address this giving him the chance to optimise both the carburettor jetting and ignition advance curve.

Now it was my turn to drive the car over some delightful French rural roads. I have mentioned these before – and the lack of traffic makes motoring a pleasure. I found the car powerful and willing to rev easily up to 7000 rpm. However I found the steering to be incredibly nervous. I imagined that the toe was incorrectly set, but back at the workshop I found that the subframe required a considerable amount of tightening up. This had a very satisfactory effect (!) although I still think that the toe requires re-setting. My choice is normally at the minimum specified (1mm out) although I have known racers to set it at parallel which makes for sharper turn-in although at the price of “nervousness”.

After I had left the owner contacted me to say that he was most pleased with the progress whilst of course understanding the constraints under which we had to operate. He added that the car, on the way to Paris pulled 6700 rpm in top gear which with the tyres fitted represents about 116mph, perfectly respectable (in my eyes anyway) although I think that there may well be more to come.

When I have more information I shall provide an update.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Matt Is Back!

Apologies for the problems with the New Yorker cartoons.

Happily, Matt is back - hurrah!

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Parisien Recommendation

This is not the site for a tourist guide for Paris; in any case; the "City of Light" should need no plugging from me, although I must say I do love the place.

Should you be fortunate enough to find yourself there, and fortunate enough to be in the 15th arrondissement then I can recommend with great confidence a bar/restaurant on Rue de la Convention. The bar is called Carpe Diem and is located directly opposite the church of St Christophe about 150 yards from Le Pont Mirabeau - the Mirabeau bridge for you non-francophones.

The other night, my girlfriend and I enjoyed a spendid meal: she had a superb salad with salmon and many other things followed by a Moelleux au Chocolat, whilst I enjoyed three courses starting with a very good chevre chaud, then a fine piece of rumpsteak in a good sauce with excellent sauté potatoes and a mousse au chocolat (also excellent) to finish - and of course a coffee. We drank four beers, 75cl of a very drinkable Bordeaux and ended with a couple of digestifs.

The bill? just 58 euros, about £39, a bargain indeed especially in view of the quality of the food and the very friendly service.

Carpe Diem has only recently opened under its present management, take advantage whilst you can still get in. The French Foreign Ministry will soon be taking over the recently refurbished Imprimerie Nationale next door. I expect that when this happens, Carpe Diem will be packed with fonctionnaires!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An Itinerant in England

The All DHT Amplifier in Early Testing Form

Well, I am finally back in France after an interesting trip.

This of course commenced with my attendance at the three days of the Goodwood Festival of Speed or Mud as some called it especially on the very wet Sunday. I suppose I had better not mention rain any more as I feel that my English readers will be angry!

I have not mentioned so far, another of my other "talents" or at least, abilities. I have warned in the past that this blog will contain articles other than about Fulvias; this is one of them.

I have spent a number of years designing and building Valve ("tube" for Americans) amplfiers for hi-fi. I have even proof-read a couple of books written in the subject (Valve Amplifiers 3rd edition and Building Valve Amplifiers both written by Morgan Jones)

On arriving at a friend's place in London I was offered work building a couple of amplifiers that would use (my friend's predilection) Directly Heated Triodes. For those not in the know, these are very old valves indeed dating from the 1930s and sometimes even earlier. Afficionados of these insist that the resulting sound is more detailed and revealing of the music than that obtained with more "modern" valves. Transistors in these circles I should add, are not considered...

The first of the amplifiers was just a straightforward line stage or pre-amplifier. The second was a more ambitious design. The order from the customer was for two of these - one for each channel. The specification called for an all direct-coupled three-stage design. This necessitated a considerable amount of effort and study of valve data plus many calculations. And then came the labour of planning the layout - that is finding space for all the bits, which is always tough. Here's a picture of the underside:

Experts will notice that there are transistors present, but they are there for "housekeeping" purposes, just to make conditions correct for the all-important valves.

The client came to hear the amplifier and was delighted with the sound and is very keen to know when I can return to England to build the other one!

The experience has rather inspired me to build something for myself, which I may well do when I have the time. Indeed I have already done most of the design and do have the valves I need to build it.

As they say "Watch this space".

Finally watch this space, as I have a report coming up about a 1600 Fulvia belonging to a new client who lives in France and on which I worked last weekend.

A bientôt

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rallye Rochois

Sorry for the lack of postings; recently I have been in England for a while.

However, I can report that the Fanalone ran very well on the Rochois - partly thanks to my preparation and largely thanks to the excellent driving and preparation of my client.

She was placed fifth in VHC (historic cars) - behind four Porsches, the Porsche 911 being the popular choice for these rallies.

Well done I say

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A "smoke-free" England

I am at present in England, following a wet but interesting Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Here, finally the fascist nannies have won: as from today, 1st July 2007, smoking in public places has been banned in England & Wales.
Expect a further enormous outpouring of patronising, smug, self-congratulatory words from the "great & the good" - as they ponder the next area of individual behaviour to sanction. Take care all ye passionate anti-smoking types; see how you feel when your favourite activities are banned on largely spurious grounds.

For me, the end of years of style & elegance thus:

The global warming types are another variety of the species - be ready to defend your old Lancias!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Morgan et Moi

Yours truly enjoying the experience

One of the advantages of being freelance or perhaps itinerant (!) is having the chance to take pleasant opportunities when they arise.

A friend of mine, another English ex-pat., has a business based near Toulouse in south-west France. The company is called The Classic Route; it rents Morgan cars to holiday-makers who wish to experience the pleasure of motoring in some really lovely countryside. Here is a link to the website.

My friend contacted me to say that he had two new Morgan Plus 4s awaiting collection in England and would I like to join him in driving one of them to Toulouse? You can imagine that I had to think long and hard about this chance...

My friend explained that such a trip made economic sense: first it actually costs less than having the cars delivered - despite the fact we took our time and stayed in decent hotels with secure parking. Second, the cars are run in properly by the time of arrival and any minor niggles can be identified. And third, there is also the pleasure of driving an open car in France.

So I flew from Geneva to Gatwick on 17th May, a happy date because it coincided with the monthly meeting of the Lancia Motor Club which takes place at the Abinger Hatch pub near Dorking. An excellent chance to meet some friends after two years away, and enjoy a glass or two of good real ale. My friend (a former Fulvia owner) and another and I travelled in a hired FIAT Punto 1400. This model must have the slimmest horses ever found in a motor-car.

The best-laid plans of mice and men etc... On the Friday, various business matters delayed our arrival at Richard Thorne's establishment near Reading and we didn't set off until nearly 8:00 in the evening.

Two nearly ready to go

Initially I found the Morgan Plus 4 rather strange. It is many years since I sat so far back in a car, with a rather nice long louvred bonnet stretching out in front of me. However I did find straight away that Morgan has improved the damping considerably (compared with my previous experiences of the marque) and the ride except on extreme bumps is very good. It took me a few miles (conscious of the responsibility) to adjust to everything.

En route to catch the last shuttle to Calais just after 11:00 p.m., we were passed on the motorway by a chap in a Ferrari 360. In our open cars, we were able to appreciate the splendid noise it made. We met him again at the terminal and he told us he removed the cats - hence the noise! Naughty but nice...

Our first stop was Rouen, we finally went to bed at about 5:30, so Saturday was a rather late start - about midday.


Saturday treated us to lovely weather, during the day at least, so despite having to observe a self-imposed rev limit of 3500 the driving was most enjoyable. We stopped for lunch at Le Mans where the cars attracted (as in fact they did everywhere we went) a lot of interest. We had to answer quite a lot of questions e.g. "Is it a replica?" "How fast does it go?" etc. My friend answered all these with great patience and a smile (a born PR man I think).

I didn't expect to see this at Le Mans!

Our evening stop was at Angouleme where we relaxed over a good dinner and a nightcap in a very lively bar.

Sunday was perhaps the best day. We were able to move to the Routes Nationales et Departmentales and with the cars having covered nearly 1000 miles, we were able to start enjoying the Morgans as they are meant to be enjoyed - and believe me they are enjoyable, especially on sweeping curves... Our trip took us through the famous wine-producing areas around Bordeaux, where we stopped for lunch in lovely St Emilion. Continuing south we drove through the valley of the Dordogne with its excellent scenary, chateaux and pretty towns and villages.

The Dordogne


Soon after Sarlat, it was time to take the Autoroute once again for the last leg to Toulouse, where we garaged the undamaged (thank God!) but rather fly-speckled cars and settled down for a fine dinner, in my case including excellent Magret de canard for which the area is so famous. Toulouse itself is a very attractive city, with an active cultural life - well worth visiting.

There will not be any more Morgan trips this year, but there are plans to expand the fleet to include a couple of classic Triumphs or MGs. I sincerely hope to be asked for those!

And if the above appeals, you can meet The Classic Route at its stand to be shared with Richard Thorne (Morgan and classic Lancia dealer) at the Goodwood Festival of Speed at the end of June.

Fanalone Update

Source: Here

You might remember that I changed the camshafts on the Fanalone. Well the results have been very good.
Last weekend the owner took part in the Rallye Vins Mâcon. I was not there myself (I usually am) but again the car ran well. Unfortunately the exhaust system cried enough aftersix years, so there is some more work to do before the next rally, a local one, Le Rochois. Local knowledge counts for a lot in rallies, so we are hopeful!
More soon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Long Silence?

Dear readers,

So sorry for the lack of activity here over the past couple of weeks. I have been away, working on various things, the most recent being an interesting trip to England, where I had to collect a new car and drive it down to Toulouse.

The car in question was unusual and I shall be writing this up shortly.

Thanks for your patience and loyalty

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Fanalone Trouble

A short while ago I mentioned that it was time once more to roll out the Fanalone for another season. The owner prefers not to run the car in the winter – especially here in Haute Savoie where so much salt is put down on the roads.

I began with a road test as is traditional in all servicing procedures. Whilst the car went quite well I thought that it was perhaps not “au point”.

First move some cars!

I removed the cam cover (I regularly check the torque setting of the head bolts with the engine warmed up) and noticed damage to one of the lobes on the exhaust camshaft. Turning the engine revealed damage to a lobe on the inlet camshaft too.

The two damaged lobes may be clearly seen here

With an invitation to open the Rallye Beaufortain for this weekend, action had to be taken.

The camshafts were special ones – the ex-works profile that Barry Waterhouse used to offer at Evolution Engineering. These are quite fierce with 100° of overlap and 11.3mm lift (4.3mm at TDC) and it has to be said that they are a bit brutal with the valve springs, although I ran a set for some years with no problems. The carburettor jetting is modified to take account of the camshafts of course. The only option was to remove the camshafts from my own car. These are not quite as extreme as the originals but have 86° overlap and 10.5mm lift (3.8mm at TDC).

On dismantling, the cause of the trouble was quickly found: the hardening had failed on some of the rocker faces. More dismantling was necessary: this time the spare Fanalone engine was “visited” and some of its rockers removed to replace the damaged ones.

With all re-assembled, the engine fired eagerly and immediately, always very satisfying. After warm-up, only very minor adjustments were required to the idle settings. The subsequent road test showed the car to be smooth and with good torque and willing to rev quickly to 7000. There is evidence that the valve springs are reaching the end of their life making a built-in mechanical rev-limiterJ. They will have to be replaced providing an opportunity to lap the valves and have a look around – after all the valves have not been touched for six years and 22 rallies!

As I write, the owner is at Beaufort for the rally and as the 'phone has not rung, I assume that all is well… Incidentally, the rally is for modern cars only, but the French club La Scuderia Lancia was invited to provide cars for opening and “sweeping up” (voiture balai). Amongst those providing these services apart from the Fanalone, are some Evos and an 037 stradale, a touch of class amongst all the moderns I think.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Nora - the Feline Pianist

Amazing I think - and great fun.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Back in Action

Yes, for another season (the fifth) without an engine overhaul, the Fanalone has been dusted off. Its first engagement is an invitation to open some of the stages at the Rallye de Beaufortain.

Those who you who a fortunate enough to be in the area will have the chance to see an 037 Stradale, two Evos and the Fanalone in action - in opening duties that is.

Next week I shall be putting a spanner here or there on the Fulvia to ready it for its outing.

The Beaufort (sur Doron) area is stunningly lovely, nestled in the French Alps. I drove through a couple of years ago on my way to Milan; a rare treat it must be said. Another link here.

More on the upcoming rally programme when plans are completed.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Amal Carburettors and the Parker-GN

Well, would you like to try it?

Those of you who have read my series on developing the Fulvia engine, might recall that in Part VI, I mentioned as a possible option, the use of Amal motor-cycle carburettors.

The Amal carburettor is a simple but effective device. Fuel is regulated by means of a single needle and jet arrangement, as in the S.U. carburettor, and the Amal too has a piston free to move vertically. The difference is that whilst the S.U.’s piston is raised by the manifold depression, the Amal’s is lifted by the throttle cable – there is no butterfly - so at full throttle there is a completely clear passage. The carburettors were available in bore sizes of up to 42mm.

Apart of course from motorcycles, the Amal was used on cars before the Second World War, notably by the extraordinary Freddie Dixon on his very fast Rileys that raced mostly at Brooklands. And in the 1960s it was possible to buy tuning kits for Minis that incorporated a pair of Amals.

Perhaps the most successful application, certainly in terms of achievements, was in the Vanwall four-cylinder 2.5 litre Formula one car in the late 1950s. However, this was an application with a difference: the carburettors were used solely as throttle bodies, since the engine was fitted with a Bosch fuel-injection system. Sorry about the small picture but larger versions are available from the source (at a price).

The Vanwall engine with its Amals

It seems that Amals are are still available here and here although I suspect that the larger ones might be difficult to find, but there are also modern Japanese carburettors manufactured by the likes of Mikuni and Keihin which are similar in many respects. Another possibility is Dell'Orto which still manufactures single choke motor-cycle carburettors. Remember that because the Amal presents a clear path a smaller diameter will probably suffice.

To conclude this short piece I should like to add a little about the formidable racer whose pictures appear here. This car is known as the Parker-GN. GN (Godfrey and Nash) was a small company that manufactured “cycle-cars” in the early 1920s. Usually powered by a vee-twin Matchless or J.A.P. engine, the cars featured a very effective gear-change mechanism and chain drive and thanks to their light weight, went very well for the time. Around 1925 the founders, H.R. Godfrey and Captain Archie Frazer-Nash separated, with Frazer-Nash going on to make the famous cars that bore his name which, up to 1939*, still used the chain drive system; later he designed various hydraulic devices including a famous gun turret. Godfrey went on to make H.R.G. cars which achieved some fame ceasing some time in the 1950s. They, like Frazer-Nashes, are very valuable now.

The Cirrus engine showing the four early Amal carburettors

The Parker G.N. is rather different: it is, rather improbably it must be said, fitted with a Blackburn (or De Havilland) Cirrus aero engine. This is an air-cooled four-cylinder of around six litres capacity, and as may be seen in the pictures, fitted with four Amal carburettors. I have seen this car racing several times in the capable hands of Richard Scaldwell and believe me, it is seriously fast!

There are some brave men around.

Sadly I have never heard of anyone fitting a Fulvia with Amals, but the principal appeal is that by staggering them the disadvantage of the uneven length ports could be overcome.

If any one has heard of a Fulvia being thus equipped I would love to hear about it.

* The company had since been bought by the Aldington brothers who founded AFN, the famous Porsche dealers (AFN = Archie Frazer Nash).

Sod the Law!


New Internet Speed test

Music and Radio Blog Club

Radio Blog Club, a good friend for a while appears to be in some legislative difficulty...

However, in tribute to its brave effort, I shall leave the existing track on this page (which amazingly still works)

Sadly my Playlist no longer works (hence its removal) thanks to the absurd "Hadopi" legislation in France. Apologies to all.