A little knowledge is a wonderful thing……..


The real trouble with being the owner of something a little unusual – an early electric sewing machine, last year’s “latest” home computer, a valve radio, a hand-propelled typewriter, or in my case an Austin 7, is how quickly you realise how incredibly little you know about it, and what keeps it working happily.  One day, sometime, somewhere it may well get up and bite you.  By good fortune, and with the help of Mac Bonar and others, little Herbie the RN Saloon runs extraordinarily well.  It is great when we have friends over for the weekend, or visitors from abroad, and I am encourages “ to take them for a spin” – and can exercise my knowledge of the many miles of country lanes and delightful byways around our part of Sussex – and on which we are not seen just as a slow-moving traffic nuisance.  Such trips usually bring us a good crop of photos each year with “Our Rental Auto and Driver in the UK !!!!” written on the back.


Looking under Herbie’s bonnet, I can actually sound quite knowledgeable – I really did manage to change the head gasket a few weeks ago, without disaster striking; and can even strip and reassemble the carburettor, clean the jets and get the float back in with Top and Bottom the right way up.  Electrics are a little more testing, although a year or two ago I got the horn to work again after a long and determined silence (I think it felt a little out decibelled by its modern garage companion), and worked out why the dynamo was not charging (it didn’t have enough wires attached).


But my list of victories seems regrettably short in reality – and a as vulnerable A7 owner and (I think) a fully paid-up member of the A7OC, the downside is knowing what an enormous fund of knowledge I haven’t got – which inevitably will be the knowledge needed on a roadside, in the rain, somewhere, sometime.  The experts with lightening responses  and enviable expertise would immediately know what was wrong AND have a “get you home” solution.  (Fold a piece of silver paper, a 20p piece just fits, take the weight with  a broken branch, well-chewed chewing gum w2ill stop the leak etc etc).  The best I’ve come up with is to borrow a mobile phone in case a roadside SOS is necessary.


Maybe I’ll absorb all this knowledge one day, but I feat it is a long way off; in the meantime I’m happy to share a few creative engineering solutions which have originated in Herbie’s garage.


1.         The cork from a reasonable claret, burgundy or Chablis will prevent oil leaking from the worn brass nuts covering the oil jets, if jammed between them and the water manifold.  A Chateau Talbot cork has withstood the pressure and vibrations for 2 years now.


2.         A wooden spring clothes peg holds the choke out beautifully and can be surrendered in extremis, when the engine has warmed, for its primary duty.


3.         Parking a car with a 12v system and an electric tyre pump next to the A7 makes topping the tyres up a doddle.


4.         After removing the cylinder head nuts to change the gasket (having encouraged the diffident ones by using the blunt end of a lumberjack’s axe on the end of the spanner) put 4 old plugs in the cylinder head and find a length of slotted Dexion or curtain rail; either the connector tops or bigger nuts creates a handle which enables one to life, jiggle and cures until something such as gingers, can be got under each end of the cylinder head.


5.         A car vacuum (the friendly 12v neighbour again), is handy for removing general loose grot in the engine compartment, and particularly when removing carbon deposits from valves, piston and cylinder heads.


But if all this sounds reasonably competent, I’m really not sure how to stop the starter-pull creeping out of the dashboard when the engine is running, or what to do about the shower of rusty bits which fall out of the top of the windscreen when going over a bump; how one can enhance lighting performance when dip or high beam on Herbie make no appreciable difference to road vision, one way or the other; nor why it is that on an average sized English country lane, what the Highway Code calls a 3 point turn takes about 7.


Thank goodness for the real experts, who are happy to share their knowledge so willingly.  Thanks for you all – one day I may need to ask you a really tricky one from the roadside.



Michael Eggars

Burgess Hill