The first 2000 miles in my Merlin

by John Winn

1. The nut which retains the door lock post is very inaccessible under the rear wheel arch which is also partly obstructed by a chassis member. When building the car I inserted a 6cm length of 2mm thick narrow steel strip into the 112 inch drive (as a diagonal, leaving about 5cm protruding) of an 18mm socket and held it in by masking tape. This could then be located onto the nut and then turned by a small adjustable spanner on the strip. A friend with a lathe recently offered to turn down each post to the same diameter as its thread and to fit a nylon sleeve (outer diameter 0.5mm oversize) as an aid to reducing rattle -see also Mike Rochester's letter in the July 1995 Newsletter. As this meant more fiddling with these nuts and as using an adjustable spanner is not always easy I made a special "spanner" from an 18cm length of 25mm x 2mm steel strip. I cut two slots, one at each end, one parallel to the length" and the other at 45 degrees, each slot to accommodate the 2mm thick strip protruding from the socket. Working on these nuts is now easy.

2. Although the driver's seat fore and aft adjustment was alright for me I could not move it far enough forward for my wife. The problem was that the front corner of the seat's plywood base fouled against the transmission tunnel where it widens to accommodate the gearbox. My first reaction was to try and realign the side rails but this would have involved rat-tail filing some oval holes -not ideal. The easier solution was to unstaple the seat cover around the front corner, carefully reprofile the plywood with Junior hacksaw and rasp, then restaple. Adjustment is now fine.

3. In my October letter I mentioned the lack of provision for anchoring the seat belt stems alongside the propshaft tunnel and outlined my solution of using a subframe of 45 x 45x 3mm angle under the floor and secured to the chassis by the rear bolts of each inner seat slide rail. Although this was probably adequate I have now increased the security by adding a bridging piece made from 40 x3mm steel strip which spans the tunnel passing under the propshaft, being drilled at each end to accept the seat stem bolts. The propshaft would now act as additional restraint if the fibreglass ripped in an accident. Only when I had built the car (and made the initial subframe) did I find from Bill and Alan Brown, who obtained their seats from Peter Gowing at Merlin, that his seats have an anchorage to the seat frame. I have not seen the arrangement to assess how robust it is, certainly the doorside locations for the reel, etc. are extremely robust so one would hope for similar strength via the seat frame.

4. Still on safety, the letter from Alan Collenette in the last Newsletter echoes my comment "Front suspension -a warning" in the October 1996 Newsletter. Both he and I were very lucky that the result wasn't to have a front wheel fold up into the bodywork at normal motoring speed -now that could have tested if the seat belts were firmly anchored! ! !
I said before that I had torqued the offending nuts to 50 Ibs ft and put a touch of white paint on the front facing flats so that I can check for loosening -after Alan's letter I certainly will continue to monitor these nuts for any loosening.
Lorraine and I are now looking forward to the "great adventure", three weeks touring in the Loire Valley in France, so I have been thinking ahead, hence the next few comments.

5. With lockable storage at a premium I had not fitted out the rear seats when the car was built but I obtained some of the upholstery material and foam sheeting from Roy Field of Redditch when he made the front seats. The objective being to make a lockable internal boot which looked right. I have now constructed a wood batten and plywood compartment, full width, the front aligning with the front of where the rear seat would have been, 131/2 inches high with a 27 x 10 ins. hinged and lockable top access lid. Covered with the upholstery material it looks quite pleasing and give an extra 4cu. ft. of secure storage plus a convenient place to mount a fire extinguisher on its front face between the seats.

6. With a Peter Gowing stainless exhaust and a Speedograph air filter the engine's breathing and extraction system was obviously non Sierra and I didn't know what effect this may have on performance, emissions etc. So a few weeks ago I had the car tested on a rolling road, the results were interesting

a. in the normal r.p.m. range the emissions were very good, but a little less so at low revs, say up to 1750rpm.
b. there was a voltage drop on one plug lead which requires re-crimping at the engine end.
c. the accelerator pump diaphragm was weak, leading to hesitancy in pick -up from low revs. I am awaiting the part. I had noticed the problem but didn't know the reason.
d. My Weber carburetter is a twin choke of the sequential variety, not of the coupled choke variety ( so they told me, and they also talked to Weber to discuss it), but it was fitted with twin accelerator jets instead of just one jet to feed the first choke. As-a result some fuel was being fed into the non-operating choke on acceleration which was being wasted and having some effect on the pick-up.
e. The power at 3000 rpm was 48 bhp, after adjusting the ignition timing to maximise the power it was increased to 56 bhp. As a consequence the performance in the 3000 to 4000rpm range is much improved.
f. Notwithstanding that the petrol tank, fuel lines etc. were new there was quite a lot of sediment in the float chamber and it was suggested that an in-line filter would be prudent. This was bought at Stoneleigh.
My 2 litre engine was bought reconditioned from Kit-Fit but they do not recondition the carburetters, only select them. However as the engines are bench tested the carburetter was given at least a basic operational test.

Loraine had asked me what was wrong with the car if it needed testing on a rolling road and I had said nothing was wrong but like her piano which benefited from tuning a car is the same. The firm is near Royston, Cambs. Tel: 01763 260524 ask for Ray Brand

7. At last year's Sandown meeting I talked to a club member who had fitted an auxiliary electric fan with a manual switch to cool the engine compartment when necessary, typically sitting in a traffic jam on a hot August day. He found the tick over became irregular but improved very quickly with the fan blowing air up the carburetter side of the engine block. I have noticed a similar problem {though whether the rolling road has had any benefit I don't know) and have fitted a fan from the ventilation system of the GS Citroen. The fan was duct mounted so it has a cylindrical casing which I fitted in the angle made by the chassis members adjacent ( and under) the front corner of the sump on the carburetter side. It is secured by a clamping band and blows vertically, current is 2 to 2.5 amps. Control is by a bimetallic thermal relay from Radio Components which closes at 60 degrees C and operts at 45 degrees C, the relay is mounted on a small aluminium plate fixed to the bulkhead by the battery. The circuit is fused at 10amps and the relay has a Samp DC rating. The fan is permanently in circuit i.e. will run when the ignition is off or on.
As yet I have not had the circumstances for it to be called upon so it is stilt in the experimental stage.

Finally Jenny, you will remember Mike, a boyhood friend who came with me to Stoneleigh. He was greatly impressed with the Merlins -he had a TA MG in his youth -but particularly impressed by the friendly club atmosphere.

We thought our Merlin would be drowned when the skies opened and we were in the trade halls, but Dave had erected our hood and Helen produced hot coffee. Great!!!