A Report by Owen Wyn Owen
The end of October saw the completion of the first six months’ work on “Babs”, so perhaps a short report of progress would be acceptable to your readers.
Already many articles have been written, some have had my approval and others have appeared in print much to my surprise. I have not objected to any article being written, but in most cases I have asked to see the articles before printing, as I am so often misquoted. Apart from a progress report from time to time, I consider that the “Babs” story should be told when the work is finished, and it is my intention then to write a book.
In the meantime here is a brief report of the work done. The chassis was completely dismantled, straightened, scraped, cleaned and painted. Similar treatment was given to the suspension and axles, which were then assembled. The engine was then dismantled and the bottom end was eventually assembled and fitted back into the chassis. The clutch was given attention and assembled—here one new bearing support casting had to be made. This means that up to this point everything is original except this casting and new brake linings. New parts were then made for the front axle near side—king pin, steering arm and pin, etc., which had been removed by someone who must have dug down to the axle. These parts have not yet been assembled, as I am short of the right 90 mm. hub. As the gearbox was going to require expert attention, this was put on the priority list. It was dismantled, the casing cleaned, all the gears and bearings attended to, and the whole lot was reassembled in the old damaged casing. This way I believe the specialists, whom I hope to enrol, can see what is required. I can now dismantle the gearbox in about 20 minutes, whereas initially it took something like 20 to 30 hours or more.
The top of the engine has been assembled with non-original parts. Although some of these will have to remain, I hope to put as many of the original parts back as I can, after they have received the attention they require. For the time being, spare cylinder blocks sit on the crankcase, but should the originals be required I would be delighted to dismantle the engine and put them back.
The ignition system is pretty well sorted out. I was unable to get one of the original AC Delco, and have had to substitute Lucas at least for the time being.
Work is progressing on the induction system. Zenith have taken the four carburetters in hand, and are servicing these. The main problem with these is the aluminium choke tube which, in the company of the bronze body, had corroded away. This means that the size of the choke tube is unknown.
So you can see that the work is progressing, but of course there is still a very long way to go. Although it looks as if a lot has been done, I would tend to say that a very good start has been made.
In reply to last month’s letter by Mr. Thacker, in which he states that there is little doubt that the car will run next year, I would say that I am not going to be forced by predictions to follow a timetable. If there was a race on perhaps “Babs’s” engine could be running by Christmas, but it is very unlikely.
While “Babs” was still in the open hole at Pendine, the Press continually requested that I should tell them how long I would take with the restoration, and at the time I said that there should be something to show in two years’ time. Now I might make that estimate three years, as there are so many variables; chiefly it will depend on the help I get with problems like the gearbox, wheels and tyres and other things like the instruments, etc.
I cannot understand Mr. Thacker’s last sentence in which he refers to the unearthing of the car at Pendine and he says: “It was probably this unexpected rapidity which caused the lack of preparation for the event itself.” I would like to say that all the preparation had been made in advance, and the assistance and goodwill of the people of Pendine made the whole project work like clockwork, with everyone concerned very satisfied with the way things went. I naturally did not waste much time with the Press, as they had made progress difficult for me on more than one occasion, and in particular I did not want to be bothered with those who had openly spoken out against the digging.
It is interesting to note that no-one has come to me or written to me to say that I have done the wrong thing.
I do believe that when “Babs” is again complete and running and the complete story can be told, then every person interested in motoring history will feel proud of “Babs’s” achievements and of Parry Thomas—I know that we in Wales already are.—Owen Wyn Owen.