home archive

Site News

February 27th - updated the shows list for 2007

January 16th - Added some more parts for sale, and a few links

December 5th - Added another show and some more parts for sale

November 27th - Added some shows for 2007

November 5th - new site launched

This is the archive of news items that have been taken off the main site home and blog pages

Sportshatch update 15 - September 2008

After an aborted attempt to get it in for an MOT test last week (abandoned due to damage on the cylinder head oil-transfer passage O-ring caused a major oil leak), it's just about ready to have another go. The brakes are awful at the moment, and I can't be sure how well the exhaust system is sealed, but generally everything is on that should be on, so fingers crossed!

Sportshatch update 14 - August 2008

It's alive! Finally fired up after some serious advancing of the timing, but as it has no exhaust system at all it's way too noisy to hear whether there's anything wrong. So I've now put the rest of the system back on, with some adapters to fit the centre silencer, and the list of jobs to do is now down to brakes, headlamps and some basic testing before it can go for MOT.

Sportshatch update 13 - July 2008

Well, most of the engine is back together, and although it turns over, it's not all that interested in firing up. Still, must charge the battery and try again as it was getting quite tired towards the end. It has a few water leaks that need sorting out, but other than that it's almost ready for MOT.

Sportshatch update 12 - May/June 2008

Well, continuing the rebuild, all the back end is now back in place, and the short engine went back in last week. All that's needed now is to put the head, cam and other ancillaries back on, then it might just run.

Sportshatch update 11 - April 2008

It's always a good sign when you start putting things back on the car, instead of just taking them off all the time. As the plates are now sealed with two coats of POR-15 rustproof paint, then a small run of silicon sealer just to be sure, followed by a nice coat of black underseal, it's time to start putting things back on. I need to re-make the long brake pipe as the end was damaged when I was taking the flexi off, then it's just a case of fitting the new flexi, maybe a pair of new cylinders, the tank back in, then the back end can go back on its wheels. Interior next, though, as this will free up a lot of space in the garage and stop me wondering whether mice like tartan!


Pleased to say that the Firenza passed the MOT test on Saturday morning, although we had to adjust the headlamp aim as they were too high. I can't think why this was - although I had swapped the bulbs for high-output ones, everything else was in the same place. Anyway, it passed, which is the main thing. And it didn't boil with the new thermostat in place, so it looks like that's all working as it should.

Sportshatch update 10 - Easter 2008

Finally got the plates welded onto the rear wheelarch tubs over the weekend. After a few weeks of making and shaping the repair sections, I took the plunge on Good Friday and welded them all in place. My welding leaves something to be desired, but they are all at least solid. A couple of coats of etch primter followed by some brush-on anti-rust primer has covered quite nicely, so all that's required is some decent top coat (chassis black or the like) followed by some underseal.

A quick visit to Weston Park show revealed quite a small number of display vehicles no doubt because of the weather (cold wind, hailstorms) but I managed to get a couple of new brake hoses, so all that's required now is to cut and flare the copper pipe.

On my return from the garage, I got a call from Chris Rogers, the previous owner of the car and the man responsible for a lot of the modifications to it. He cleared up one or two things such as the type of head (it's a Blydenstein 3H head) and the origin of the discs (Formula 3 car) and it was good to talk again. He emigrated to Australia just after I bought the car, and now lives on a farm with plenty of room for a wide range of vehicles.

Sportshatch update 9 - Christmas 2007

Well, as is always the case, the rust didn't fix itself. I've now managed to poke quite a large hole in the drivers side floor, and nearly have the plates made to cover it all up. The other side looks like it has already been plated, possibly by me judging by the quality of the work. Still, I'm not going for a concours job so it won't be getting done again.

As well as the front, there are also a few plates required on the back end of the sills, in the rear wheelarches and behind the wheelarch on the nearside. None of them are major jobs, but it all adds up.

On the plus side, my new Superflex bushes arrived from the Viva Drivers Club, so I've started fitting them into the subframe ready for it to go back in the car when the welding is done. And I finally took the plunge last weekend and fitted a thermostat to the HPF. It's always run without one to make sure that the engine doesn't overheat, but on the other hand it helps to warm through more quickly as long as all the pipes and the radiator are solid. A standing test for about thirty minutes showed that it gets up to temperature and cools down quite effectively, so hopefully it will be just as good in the middle of next summer.

Sportshatch update 8 - November 2007

Dropped the subframe again to get the wishbones off, and took the plunge to strip it completely and make a decent job of it. All was fine, except the drivers side lower wishbone wouldn't shift.

Finally got it out by taking around to my mates gas welder. The subframe then went off to be blasted and powder coated - it's come back now, way too nice to go under the front of the car. As a distraction I've been poking at some surface rust on the drivers side bulkhead, which unfortunately has turned it into a much larger hole. I removed the shield between the bulkhead and outer wing and luckily all behind is pretty solid, but I have some origami to do to sort the bulkhead. Still, better done before the subframe goes back in.

Sportshatch update 7 - October 15th 2007

Sportshatch engine bay, painted

Well, I finally got the engine bay painted last week. I borrowed a compressed air cylinder and spraygun from a mate, and although that was much better it also ran out of air after about fifteen seconds. So I took the plunge and bought a proper compressor. It's amazing how easy this makes it (especially when the final finish doesn't matter too much, it's an improvement on before), and now I've started putting the car back together.

... but I might have to drop the subframe again. The idea was to paint parts of the subframe while it was out, put it back in, remove the wishbones and castor arms, paint them, then put them back. What I didn't realise, though, was that the upper wishbone bolts won't come out with the subframe in the car, because they foul on the chassis leg. So either I paint the upper wishbone in situ, or I drop the whole lot out and start again. Decisions, decisions...

Sportshatch update 6 - September 9th 2007

After spraying primer and filler-primer on the inner wings a couple of weeks ago, I took the plunge and stuck some top coat on the wings. One thing to report - my electric spraygun is rubbish. I know it's bad form to blame the tools, but this thing blobs, clogs up, drips - in fact all the things that it is bad for a spraygun to do, this one does. I think I've managed to get enough paint on the various panels to provide a base for me to polish up a shine.

The flywheel is back on the engine, so the bottom end is virtually done now, just the sump plug to go back.

Sportshatch update 5 - July 15th 2007

The bottom end of the engine is now back together. I did intend to just put the pistons in, but ended up carrying on with it and the sump is back in place. I hope the rear oil seal is in properly - this is a two-part rope seal which has to be cut to the correct length, hopefully that and the bits of sealant I put in will be enough.

I'm still trying to smooth out the inner wing repair panels so I can paint the inner wings. Managed to get some cellulose paint in "Extra Dark Wine", the original Sportshatch colour (code 6RD in case anyone cares) so I can tart up the engine bay ready to scratch most of it off when I put the engine back in.

Sportshatch update 4

Sportshatch engine bay

A bit more painting is now done - the engine block is almost ready to start going back together, just a little more paint to be done on the front surface of the block. The engine bay looks a little empty now the subframe is out of the way, but there's still a lot more to remove before it could be painted.

Sportshatch update 3

Sportshatch front brakes

I finally got the exhaust system off the car on Sunday morning. First I started cutting it off, but then as the pipes are in good condition (only the silencers are shot) I thought I'd try to keep it in one piece so it could be re-used. The new core plug set from the Viva Drivers Club arrived, so they were pressed into the block, and I've also removed the front subframe so it can be cleaned up and painted. Looks like it has been strenghtened at some point, too. The discs look like they're in pretty good condition, which is a relief as I've no idea where to get replacements.

This is turning into a much more extensive rebuild than I originally planned, but it seems silly to put the engine back in and leave the subframe in its current mix of red paint, black paint and no paint.

Sportshatch update 2

Well, now I have a completely empty block, crank and flywheel are eventually out and look in very good condition. The main bearings are .010" undersized, so it looks like it has had a crank grind at some point in its life, along with the rebore. There is evidence of grinding on some of the crank webs, so perhaps it has been balanced as well. So I will be careful to make sure it all goes back in the same places it came out of.

Reading through some early editions of "Droop Snoot Noos" - the magazine of the Droopsnoot Group - it seems that Bill Blydenstein reckons that gas flow through the cylinder head is actually better with an amount of coking up of the ports. Pity I didn't read that before I painstakingly cleaned a lot of the coke out of mine. Still, my main priority is to keep the output as clean as I can, so I figure this might help at the expense of slightly less outright performance.

Sportshatch update 1

This weekend I stripped most of the engine down, with only the crank left to still remove. I was reminded on Sunday morning that, no matter how well you think you've drained all the oil out of the engine, as soon as you remove the sump pan you'll find a lot more. Hopefully the drive cleaner will get the stains out of the concrete floor - if only I'd thought of putting the tarpaulin down first.

One thing I hadn't realised is that my car seems to have .020" oversized pistons, which implies that the engine has been rebored at some point. Good job I didn't order some new rings for it. The head is stamped "WB682" at one end, I wonder if this refers to a Blydenstein number of some sort.

In general, the condition inside the engine looks good. The head has a fair bit of coke in the exhaust ports, but is cleaning up quite well. The piston tops were also coated with a layer of black stuff, but that's coming off pretty well too. The rest of the piston body is very clean indeed, and the big end bearings look in pretty good shape. So in theory all I need to do is put it all back together and stick it back in the car.

My Sportshatch

For some years I've had a Vauxhall Sportshatch sitting in the garage looking more and more sorry for itself. I used to take this to classic car shows, but it hasn't been on the road since I restored the Firenza in 1997. Well, last weekend I finally got around to taking the engine out, and my plan is to strip and rebuild this, and put it back in a few weeks. Hopefully that will make it run a little better, then I can move on to try and get the car MOT'd.

There's a major shortage of decent Sportshatches at classic car shows now. It is estimated that fewer than one hundred of this model survive, and many have been dismantled over the years to provide spare nosecones and alloy wheels for the HP Firenza which has always been seen as somehow more "worthy". But a few DSG members seem to be getting enthusiastic about returning Sportshatches to their former glory, so let's hope there is a sudden influx of "Extra Dark Wine" at shows soon.

Whoopee - got a new MOT

Pleased to see that the car passed its annual MOT test this year, albeit with a warning for an oil leak. I suspect this is the rear crankshaft oil seal, as it's very difficult to get a good seal as it's part rubber and part rope.

I was also able to try out my new toy - a Sealey engine crane - and finally swap the noisy clutch release bearing for a new one. With a bit of luck this will be quiet enough that I can hear the engine at idle now.

So, assuming I can finish putting the engine back together and get it running again, time to give it a quick wash ready for the 2007 show season.

VBOA Autojumble, March 11th 2007

A much bigger autojumble this year at a new venue just to the South West of Coventry. Although a lot of the content was for more modern cars, there was a fair amount of Firenza-related spares. One new addition was low-cost tables which were taken by enthusiasts and club members to clear out their own surplus parts, along with the more usual traders pitches.

This show is growing in size every year, and it's nice to see something for us Vauxhall fans alongside the more usual MG, Triumph, Ford, Jaguar special events. Hopefully it will continue to get more support.

Petitions - updated 27th February 2007

I'm not sure these are going to make any difference, but I'd urge anyone who agrees to sign the following petitions as they deal with matters that I consider quite important.

The first petition was against the proposed road pricing scheme, which gained nationwide press coverage with more than 1.8 million people signing it, and everyone getting a "personal" email from Tony Blair after it was closed. It will be interesting to see whether all those signatures actually make any difference.

The second is a petition to update the cut-off date for classic cars to be eligible for free road tax. Currently this date is fixed at January 1st 1973, meaning that although much newer cars are widely acknowledged as classics, for example the Audi quattro, their owners must pay full price for road tax discs in order to use them. For me, this means around £100 for about four hundred miles of use per year. The date should either be brought forward, or the rolling twenty-five year exemption brought back. Click here to sign this one.

New things For Sale

Well, not "New" as such, I came across some other bits and pieces at the weekend that I have no use for. Check out the For Sale page for more details.

Classic Car Show, NEC, 27-29 October 2006

It's that time of year again - you can tell winter is drawing in when the NEC Classic Car show comes around. This year it was a little bit earlier than usual - normally the show is after the clocks have changed, in early November.

With four halls instead of the usual two, the Classic Car Show was larger than in recent years, with many car clubs represented along with an extensive autojumble and restoration supplies area. It was nice to see the Droop Snoot Group with a stand at the show, and a brief chat on Saturday revealed a lot of interest in the club and the cars it represents.

The Stranglers, Manchester Academy, October 13th 2006

The Stranglers, Manchester Academy 13-Oct-2006

A storming gig from the Stranglers, with a great atmosphere and a really enthusiastic crowd getting into the old and new songs alike. A fair number of tunes from "Suite XVI" - the new album released in September - slotted into the set naturally alongside the older tracks.

With the exception of one or two festival dates, this was the first real tour showcasing the new four-piece line-up featuring Baz Warne and JJ Burnel sharing lead vocals, with Jet Black on drums and Dave Greenfield on keyboards. Although the gigs with one-time front man Paul Roberts - who left the band in April of this year - were always very enjoyable, the new format seems "right" somehow. And to see the energy at this gig, you wouldn't believe that the band has been going for thirty-two years, nor that Jet Black is the oldest full-time rock drummer at 68 years old.

What's going on in Nantwich?

Well, for some reason there's an abrupt change in Nantwich on a Saturday night. For the last few weeks, the town has been much busier than of late, queueing to get in pubs that are normally half empty, only thing is, I can't for the life of me see what's different. The prices haven't all dropped, the atmosphere is no better, the carpets are still sticky. Only thing is, it's now harder to get served in a reasonable time. Oh well.


On visiting the lock-up garage to collect the Firenza for Tatton Park classic car show, I was alarmed to learn that the owners had applied for planning permission to replace my garages with a block of terraced houses. It would have been nice if they'd mentioned it, what with me being a tenant for about twenty years and all, but they chose not to. So the search was on for somewhere to move the two cars and twenty year collection of spare parts. Luckily a friend put me onto a local farmer who had some space available, and over a two-day period at the end of September I moved the whole lot into a much larger space and vacated the garages. It brought home to me just how much stuff I have, a lot of it redundant (just how many spare bell-housings can one person need?), hence the For Sale page on this new design of the site. I am determined the stocks will be reduced and as I sort through things, spare bits will be listed here. If you're in the market for spares for a Vauxhall Viva, Magnum or Firenza, keep an eye on the For Sale page.

End of the classic car show season

With the popular show at Cholmondeley Castle in September, my classic car show seasion is over for another year. It seems like only a few weeks since I was preparing the car for its annual MOT test, and now it's back in the garage for winter again.