Bitter and Twisted

Well, happy new year to one and all. Things are moving slowly forward. My ‘other’ car, the Bitter SC, has finally gone to a new owner. Technically it had been for sale for some time, but in practice I had not advertised it anywhere, so enquiries were few. However a few people in the Bitter Owners’ Club knew it was for sale, and passed some enquiries on to me. One of those was very keen, and although it needed a bit more work doing than he’d planned, the fact that it was a manual transmission car swung him. I say “a” manual transmission car, but actually it is “the” manual transmission car – the only RHD 3.9 manual made. I shall miss it, but it needed some work, which I was not going to do as the 410 is currently taking precedence, so it’s best that it go to someone who will. I had it five years almost to the day and put about 40,000 miles on it, the first 30,000 in about 18 months as my everyday work car. A wonderful and much underrated vehicle.

As for the 410 itself, it is currently at Spencer’s having some corrective surgery to the door. This is a sorry tale. I wrote a year or so ago about a problem with the axle leaking oil. After long motorway runs there would be a fine film over the back bumper, and parked up across a slope it would leak from the ends. Well it turned out that it was (and still is) leaking from the bushes where the suspension arms mount into the axle. This was going to be an expensive fix, so I have been putting it off on the basis that LS90 axle oil is cheaper than a suspension rebuild. This means pretty regularly popping the car up on ramps and topping up the axle, not a huge job and one I’d got pretty adept at (even doing so 90 minutes before I was due at the church last May…). However, a few months ago disaster struck. I was doing the job in my parents garage (bigger and cleaner than mine) and while reversing up onto the aforementioned ramps, I managed to give a slightly recalcitrant cold engine too many revs, which gripped the ramps too well and flung them forwards, sharply depositing the 410 eight inches downwards off the back of the ramps with quite a jolt. I do not recommend doing this. The car hardly moved backwards, but the ramps shot forwards. There would not have been so much damage, but for the fact that the driver’s door was open so I could see where I was going. The shock of the drop combined with the weight of the door caused it to drop a little, bending the hinges and snapping the check strap casting. I will admit to significant and creative swearing.

And there it has sadly sat since last July I think. The door was just about closable, from the outside, if you lifted and shoved somewhat, but driving anywhere meant clambering in from the passenger side. Other priorities and commitments have meant that I have not had the chance to do anything about it until now. However, I plugged in the trickle charger last week and it started first turn of the key. The engine left some soot on the drive, but ran very nicely and the car drove just like it had been parked yesterday.

Before taking it to Spencer’s I dropped in to Bell Silencers in Swindon for them to check the exhausts. I knew one of the silencers was holed, and in fact both turned out to be pretty scruffy. This is not rot, as they are stainless, but physical damage from impact with roads and kerbs. One had split at the front, and both were almost worn through on their trailing edges. There is not a great deal that can be done about this, apart from being more careful. The exhausts are both about as high as they can be mounted, and I have still had the car bottom out in a dip on the M25 even! However I think it was a misjudged kerb, with five large people in the car, that had caused the fatal blow to the front. I have seen other V8 Bristols with the silencers under the boot floor instead, but that I suspect would gently cook anything you put in the boot. Anyway, Bells are making up two new boxes and they should be fitted before the MoT is due next month.

I’ll pick up the car from Warminster in the next day or two and report back. It was really good to be out and about in it again last week, and I look forward to a busy summer. But first there’s that back axle to deal with… Stay tuned for news on that.

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