Way Past 40.

Way Past 40.

What's it about?

Just a load of old rambling about me and the different things I end up doing...normally projects and builds of some description!

I have also published a book called "The Project Has Landed..." about the Land Rover Series 3 rebuild I did and it can be bought from any amazon website so please feel free to go and get yourself a copy!

If you feel the need or just want to talk feel free to contact me via Nick@nickysmith.me and I will get back to you asap :)

Thanks for reading.

Well That's a Bit Of a Mess.

Mini Days.Posted by Nicky Smith Sun, July 15, 2018 07:53:46
Yea I know I haven't been around much lately and I will not apologise for that because I have been out and about enjoying the weather generally living life.
This does not mean I have not been making plans and pottering just a little in the background. The camper keeps getting an extra modification here and there just to tweak it to maximum comfort for the three times a year we seem to be using it.
My back garden (and house for that matter) is now covered in fantastically coloured plants so it look likes someone who cares about what it looks like actually lives here and not just an availablecar.com branch. The mini though has taken a bit of a back step.

It's covered up most of the time so you just tend to wander past it without a second glance. On Friday though I had a few hours to kill so I decided it was time to take off the tarp and whip out the front lights.
Well it started with the lights then the bumper just had to be removed on the front, with the front off the back had to be removed too because I am a bit of an OCD freak. The bonnet needs some repair so that's in the garage now along with the drivers door because that needs reskinning.

I have put the tarp back over it for now because cars take up lots more space when they are in bits and room is in short supply at the moment...

Oh and the puppy has now taken to barking, she has found her voice. Anything is game including an empty cornflake box placed on the windowsill ready to be taken out for recycling. Apparently it was going to kill us all by the way she was growling and barking at it, what would we do without her protection from such things I do not know!

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Replace the Old With the Old.

Mini Days.Posted by Nicky Smith Sun, May 20, 2018 08:59:21
Anyone else got a puppy that's a bit of a twat?

I have to ask because I really don't want to be the only person out here in the big bad world that suffers this particular affliction. Let's have a quick recap about the whole dog situation over the last twelve months.
Molly was my last dog. She was a stupid great lump that malted for 11 months of the year but she was part of the furniture and part of the family. She was around for the kids growing up and when she passed away last November she was ten and a half years old. I was devastated. She was my shadow and I didn't realise how much I talked to her until she was gone and I found myself speaking out loud in all sorts of situations only to myself and the empty space beside me.
January found me falling down the stairs whilst carrying a basket of washing only to break my foot as I hit the hallway floor at the bottom. I should probably make a better story on how that happened like "I was fighting off an armed burglar with only a slipper when I slipped" rather than "I was doing the washing chores when I didn't look where I was going".
Anyway a week or so in of teh forced rest that comes with a broken bone it was suggested that now was the time to get a new pup for company and training. I agreed found a Cockerpoo went to collect one and chose a twat.

I should of figured my mistake out when after two weeks the pup decided to jump off of the sofa in a blind panic because I was carrying a plate of food into the landing funny and breaking her back leg. Thank god for the vets free 4 weeks insurance because that break cost the best part of four grand to fix! Can you imagine having to pay for that! I haven't got forty quid let alone four grand.
Quite frankly she hasn't got much brighter in the stupid stakes. She is pleasant enough and there is not a mean bone in her body but when outside she will happily have a taste of whatever is on the ground. On Saturday morning this was a sliver of cut off metal.

Seriously, I was cleaning off the cut areas ready for the replacement roof when I could hear this weird metal on something chewing noise that made my very core crawl. I looked down to see my dumb pup happily chewing on a six inch long by 5mm thick bit of rusty metal. She then had the audacity to give me that dirty look that only the female sex of any species can do when I took it off of her and told her no!
That added with the fact that she likes to bugger off next door ninja like to see the old fella there whenever she feels like it certainly keeps me on my toes when trying to work on anything at all.
I forgot what bloody hard work puppies were...

I priced up a new roof panel for JD but it came in a little over £400 which is a little too pricey for my tastes. When I bought the mini it came with a donor shell but the roof on it would require a little work to one corner. After all of three seconds contemplation I decided I could live with that and set to removing it.

It came off easily enough with the grinder and those thin discs I found the day before.

I trimmed the gutter off once removed then set to fitting it to JD. A few adjustments here and there saw it put into place so now the old boy has a much better roof than the colander he had before!

When you have finished something that makes such a big difference on the appearance front you really do feel like you are making quick progress. There is still a long way to go on the welding front on the mini though with lots of small award time consuming patches. It'll be worth it though and lets face it, I would only be wandering around the house getting myself into trouble anyway if I didn't have this.

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Maybe a Convertible?

Mini Days.Posted by Nicky Smith Sun, May 20, 2018 08:26:41
I finished work mid afternoon on Friday and quickly found myself stood in my garage looking at the unruly and unkempt state of the place. This is highly unusual for me because I am a proper OCD freak when it comes to tidiness and things put away in their place. There is nothing worse than needing a tool and then having to spend ten minutes looking for it. To me that is a colossal waste of time that could be spent doing something more productive, I have to just walk in and pick up what I need.
So how the garage has ended up in a such an unusual mess is beyond me, maybe my cheese is starting to slip off of my cracker.

Anyway as I was putting away the tools and disposing of the copious amounts of rubbish that had seemed to appear from nowhere (I may need to speak to Wifey about that as I know I am getting a little forgetful in my mid years but not to the extent of forgetting when I bought myself a new set of hair curlers and then dumped the box in the garage) I came across a fresh still in the packet set of 1mm cutting discs.

"They would be perfect for cutting the rusty mini roof off" I thought to myself whilst taking the cover off of JD just to check they could.

Of course within about 30 seconds I had dug out the grinder, fitted the disc and double checked the cutting points. It is amazing how quickly you can cut off the roof of a car you know!

There were a couple of holes that needed a quick clean up and patch putting in but that didn't take long.
It was at this point my old git neighbour wandered around to ask "What's all that bloody noise about".
Smiling to myself and him I said "What's it got to do with you old man?"
I best explain here that that's the way we communicate. With abuse. It's good natured and I think the silly old bugger is great fun. He just wanted to see how far I had got with the project so far. He has seen a few over the last couple of years and loves to have a poke around when a new one gets going.

"Thought about maybe making it a convertable?" he asked but believe it or not I had the costs involved in that though are crazy high so nope it will just be a standard roof on this one.

By now it was time to get the dinner on but with Wifey and the girls away for the weekend from the Saturday morning I figured sorting a roof out with my first full day off would be the best way to spend the day...

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I Can't Sit Still.

Mini Days.Posted by Nicky Smith Fri, May 18, 2018 17:18:48
I have only just finished the campervan conversion so my plan was to take a few months off and make JD the mini an Autumn/Winter project. I'm not sure who I thought I was kidding with that thought or statement to my Wife last Sunday afternoon because lets face it, it wasn't going to wash.
I cannot sit still for long. I pulled up the old carpet in the hall and stained the floor boards for something to do one evening then the following two I watched a bit of TV and then a bit more. Boredom was never more than a fidget away...

Last night around six pm whilst being faced with all of the chores completed, the garden watered and dinner eaten I was faced with little more to do than hit Netflix to see what rubbish I could watch. I actually made it to the sofa but as soon as my backside touched the cushions it was a "Nope, I'm not sitting here again for hours on end" I told the dog and walked straight outside over the newly varnished floor to the carport.

"May as well have a quick peek at the Mini" I thought to myself whilst slowly peeling the cover off of it with the anticipation of a teenage boy getting to second base for the first time. There it sat in it's full unrestored beauty with the light somehow managing to glint off of it's rather dirty paintwork as if it was happy to just be in the open once again.

I had a look here and then there at what needed doing forming a plan in my mind of the order that it needed to be done in. I had to start from the top first repair wise so all of the windows had to be removed so the headlining could come out without getting torn.
The rubbers would have to be freed off with a simple slide of a plastic scraper between them and the body work...where did I leave that scraper?

Yep that's it nice and simple followed by a gentle push of the glass from the inside and "Pop" out comes the window. Best store that safely.

The side windows are a bit tougher if I remember so best be gentle here, yep all good with nothing broken.

Back window must be similar to the front so nice and steady and yep out it comes in one very old unbroken piece! I am four for four here!

Now you have to name your car from the number plate if possible so after about half a seconds thought the mini shall be called JD.
Now how did the headlining come out again? Oh yea peel back the glue and start to pop it out of the holes in the roof trying not to break the plastic inserts because they have to be 43 years old now...old git...how old am I this year? Bugger...45. The plastics inserts will be fine then and not break because they are still fit as a fiddle not gained any weight and still look like they did when they were 26.
Bugger...snapped one at the end, still not to worry the rest of the headlining looks fantastic almost hip and stylish.

The door seals should be easy to remove and that interior really should come out so I can see what else is lurking around under it all rust wise.

Hmm just a couple of extra little holes here and there so all in all not too bad at all.

It was at this point my ever suffering Wife came out of the front door with a fresh cup of tea stopped dead and looked around the now mini part strewn driveway and carport then said "Well the summer passed by really quickly this year" smiled set my tea down then slowly closed the front door on the chaos that had ensued outside.

It was at this point that I actually realised that whether I liked it or not I had started the mini rebuild. I chortled quietly to myself unsurprised at the way I had yet again got carried away with another piece of classic scrap that would become an obsession no doubt over the next few months.

So, here we go again.

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Mini To Spain Part 6.

Mini Days.Posted by Nicky Smith Sun, May 06, 2018 06:33:56

Part 6.

I don't know if you have ever driven off of a ferry into a foreign country but it can be a bit hectic. You have the entire contents of a boat trying to leave the dockside as quickly as possible all at once because those few minutes getting out first just have to make the difference when you are faced with a long drive ahead.

I hung back and just let them get on with it. Another hour or two was going to make no difference at all to me with the drive I had laid out ahead, so I just took in the tarmac and concrete buildings shimmering in the heat unique view that I had from the low down seat in the mini.

As I made my way through the port towards passport control I had the dock workers then even the police grinning and pointing at the car with talk and shouts of “Coche clásico" as I passed. I just grinned back and waved as I passed by at the pace the Queen normally sets whilst humouring her subjects.

The security checks were pretty painless with the only delay being questions actually about the mini's set up and year of build etc. The road now called and I set out building the speed up to a steady 60mph on the three lane road along the built up coastline remembering to drive on the wrong side of the road as those quirky European folks do. I had done this drive about a year or so before so was confident that I would easily navigate my way through the poorly signposted many road splits. I wove left and right confident in my driving skills and memory enjoying the clear blue skies and that Spanish sunshine.

I'm not going to lie here, after about twenty miles I really was not recognising anything I could see along the way. Even the road looked wrong. Some signage for a service station loomed up in the distance and I decided that it was time to swallow my manly pride and ask someone if and where I had gone wrong. Yea, I had very wrong. I was basically heading towards home in a northerly direction. After some laughter from the cashier at where I actually wanted to head, no need for that really, he pointed out the route I wanted on a map, which I ended up buying because I hadn't brought one with me, I fuelled the mini up and set off in confidence once again.

The diversion wasn't that bad if I am honest. I got to see some of the country I had not seen before, nor since, and time wise it had cost me about an hour. No biggy because there was no rush to get anywhere at all.

Mini's were not designed initially with mountain climbing in mind. I know this first hand because the beginning of the run from Bilbao has lots of very long and steep roads that in a mini that is screaming it's heart out trying to get to the top of. As this happened a couple of times early on in the drive I did wonder if I was going to make it to the other side of the hills let alone to the other side of Spain but as per usual the little fella just kept on plodding.

The second thing that mini's were not designed for in Europe was toll booths. Modern cars are quite a bit taller than an old mini then couple in the fact you are on the wrong side of the car saw me hopping out of the drivers seat, which seemed to become harder and harder as the day drew on, everytime I needed to pay for my passage. It was never just a quick pay job though as everyone would start off the transaction with “Esta Muy Classica” then go onto to asking me exactly what model of mini it was and that they didn't see many of those over here any more.

I stayed being polite hoping that a little conversation whilst upsetting everyone else queing behind me would lead to free passage on the toll roads, but it never did.

So the first five or six hours carried on in much the same vein. I would fill the mini up with fuel then drive until I hit a toll. Talk for a bit thankful to stretch my legs out for a minute or two then drive some more on the perfectly smooth european roads until I needed to fuel up again.

The sun rose high in the sky then stareted it's slow desent back towards the horizon leaving me marvelling at what a wonderful thing life is and that travel was one of the best things you can do within it.

That's when the first very nasty painful sounding noise came from just behind the dashboard...

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A Mini to Spain Part.

Mini Days.Posted by Nicky Smith Sat, April 07, 2018 08:03:29

Part 5.

The clear blue cloudless sky's lasted for the whole trip. I don't mean just to Portsmouth but the entire trip from the UK to Southern Spain. The Sun other than having to disappear each day as it has always done with the perpetual motion of the earth kept me company from the moment I began this crazy venture for the second time. No, come hell and high water I cannot say that things could not of got worse on the adventure thrown at me on this trip. It could have rained.

The trip to catch the ferry on it's second attempt was uneventful. It was filled with me being a bit of a nervous wreck keeping an eye on literally each and every new noise the mini made as we settled into each others company again. A squeak from behind had me thinking the wheels were going to fall off, then a slight knock from the front had me convinced the engine mountings were about to sheer. But he just purred along though at a steady 60mph not missing a beat on the three hour drive through some of the most stunning countryside the Cotswold's had to offer.

The fresh paintwork reflected the strong rays of sunshine and people were turning to smile, stare and wave at the little car as they overtook us on the motorways then as we passed through small towns and villages. This was the beginning of what would become the normal sort of attention the plucky little fella would get throughout the entire trip.

Soon enough I arrived at the port and once the usual ticket and vehicle checks were made we were driving up what seemed like a really steep ramp compared to the size of the mini onto the parking deck of the ship. The loader fella had a big grin on his face as he directed me into the correct position so the car could be strapped down.

“Don't see many of these making the trip across the water these days” he said still with that crazy big grin on his face.

“Probably not the best type of grand tourer!” I replied with a smile.

And there I left it in it's new parking spot for a couple of days. I didn't need to worry about it breaking down for a bit as we were going to be pushed along under someone else's steam for a while so there was nothing else to do other than dump my bag in my cabin and go and find myself a beer from somewhere.

Have you ever been on boat to Spain before? It's got some really varied and interesting people and groups on it. You have the bikers who want to go for a blast in a country where they will actually be dry and warm for a change. The truck drivers who mostly keep to themselves whilst being forced away from the vehicle they normally live in and maintaining the very solitary nature of their existence. Then there's the groups of lads and ladies, I mean ladies in the furthest extremity of the definition of the word here, who are using the crossing as a booze cruise spending all of a few hours on the Spanish mainland after docking before returning back onboard to start the whole boozy return process all over again.

There is always a presence of those taking their camper vans over or returning to their new homes in the sun. There always seems to be a presence of happiness and planning with these people who quietly plan what they will be doing and where they will be going.

Then there were a few folk like me. Not mad buggers who thought driving a classic mini to Spain was a good idea but those that were travelling by themselves for one reason or another. We are a rare breed who seem to recognise the happiness in travelling alone. It's not lonely you just have to be happy with your own company and enjoy passing the time in any way you see fit.

The boat though has limited things to do onboard. The main time passer seems to be drinking but even though I enjoy a beer I'm not a fan of getting drunk for no reason at all nor even if there really is one. So I spent the time bobbing up and down the waves just relaxing. I wandered the ship from bow to stern and back again taking in all of the floors and taking a deliciously long amount of time deciding what meals I should be eating when.

What I would recommend to anyone sailing on any type of ship though is this. Book a cabin with a window in it! The inside cabins with no windows leave you not knowing what time of day or night it is and that is really rather disorientating.

Soon enough the days passed and I could see the Spanish mainland appearing on the horizon and a couple of hours later we were docked in Bilbao and I found myself sat in the mini, engine running, waiting for the car in from to drive off.

As it did the ships exit ramp appeared with a very Spanish view in front of me and there was once again that nervous exciting need to poo yourself a little bit type of feeling in my belly. I selected first gear released the handbrake and bounced down the ramp off of the ship into the Spanish heat and sunshine to try and get this really old little car from one corner of Spain down to the other.

There was only 800 or so miles left to go...

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It's Arrived!

Mini Days.Posted by Nicky Smith Sun, March 18, 2018 07:20:39
Why is it that whenever I want to move a motor around the weather turns bitterly cold or wet? I figure that someone somewhere is trying to put me off even starting the next new project so that I can keep the skin on my knuckles, the curses in my mouth and what little of the non grey hair on my head intact.

Having battled through the icy cold winds and snow showers we managed to get the little Burgundy mini onto my driveway. We did manage to get it running at the collection point and onto the trailer but a strong smell of petrol leading to the discovery of a rather large leak put paid to running it anymore at the other end to get it off again. Luckily my driveway is all downhill so it wasn't that much of a struggle.

Once it was settled into place and the goodbyes to the friends that had helped get it here were done it was time to have a good cursory look around the little fella. And it is a little fella. I had forgotten how small the mini's were once you got them outside into the real world! I remember how when I was young and stupid me and my friends would pick them up and move them around causing the owners no end of stress I am sure trying to find them in the morning. I best clarify they were not random mini's. We knew who the owners were and sometimes would pop back out hiding up the road when they came out of their houses to watch the look of "What the Hell?" on their faces when they saw an empty mini sized slot of the street where their csr should have been.

Back to the inspection though. There are a couple of things I had missed on my first look around it but nothing to worry about in the grand scheme of things. There's the normal welding but in order to start that the interior needs to be stripped out first but I'm in no rush to begin because the campervan needs a little TLC to get it ready for summer first.
With that in mind I have put the little car to bed under it's nice and new car cover that will hopefully keep the water out of the holey roof!
I do know myself quite well though and with the promise of lighter evenings starting from next weekend I do not doubt that the cover will soon be off and the interior stripped out before we know it.

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Something a bit different.

Mini Days.Posted by Nicky Smith Sun, March 04, 2018 18:25:22
I have been wondering what sort of project to do next for some time now or even if I should bother for a while and just leave things for a bit. But who was I kidding there was never not going to be a project kicking around. For one thing my wife would lose the plot with me being under her feet all of the time and there is no way that I could not have something to tinker with kicking around.
My pottering time is where I relax, spending the time to process my days in the background of my mind while bringing something back from the brink of being scrap yard spares to churning up mile after mile of tarmac with a new lease of life.

What to build next though? I have done a campervan, a couple of Land Rovers and tinkered with bikes. I needed something else to occupy my tiny mind but what?

I looked at a toylander type affair, which is still on the cards, but I kept drifting back to the rose tinted memories of rebuilding classic mini's way way back in the past. The more I looked into what could be next the more often I found myself drifting back to looking at mini projects that other people had abandoned or poor old mini's that had just plain got old and tired.

What amazes me is how much the price of these old motors has rocketed. I used to buy these cars up from as little as £20 just to break for spares but now that would be impossible. Rusty old tin cans now that I would not have looked at back then with any thought of restoring them are commanding money in the regions of of four figures which seems like lunacy to me. It is a sure sign though that you are getting older when you start making these comparisons and cars that were common place on the roads of your youth are now classed as classics. Indeed it would seem that I myself am becoming...Retro.

But a friend has made me an offer I cannot refuse on a little 1975 840cc classic mini automatic that is in need of some attention. This little motor will be here over the next few weeks and the rebuild will begin. This won't be a quick fix it up and turn it around job. I want to make a proper job of this one and to do that it is going to take some time along with a fair amount of cash that I don't actually have at the moment.
I think it will be worth it though, to do a proper job and have this plucky little survivor looking the mutts once again. Of course I will keep you all in the loop on how it all goes...that's if you want to of course ;)

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