Testing to the Max

The weather has been glorious since the Covid-19 lockdown began here, so I have been making the most of it by working outside on my property. Naturally, this means the cars haven’t received much attention, especially as there are no car events to go to and all but essential travel restricted. I have made a little bit of progress on the Fellow Max though.

Currently, from what I am told, the DVLA have a massive backlog of paperwork to deal with, so I think it’s unlikely I’ll be able to get the Max registered before the end of summer. Despite that disappointment, I have pressed on with making it roadworthy.

Initially, I spent a while trying to figure out why the charge light was on while the engine was running, despite the system showing that the alternator was charging just fine. Eventually, I resorted to using the Google translation app on my phone to study the Japanese Handbook which came with the car, only to discover that it’s actually meant to do that! While the little green light is illuminated, you have charge, if it goes out, you don’t. I guess there’s some logic to that!

In truth there was very little needed to make it pass an MOT. One front shock was leaking, so I stripped it, replaced the top gland seal (with one for a Datsun!) and refilled it with 175cc of SAE10 shock absorber oil. Leak cured!
The rubber windscreen washer pump bulb on the steering column was perished and would squirt washer fluid into your lap if you pressed it! I have already sourced one in Japan, but with all of the Covid restrictions it’ll be a while before it gets here. In the meantime, I performed a temporary fix by smearing a thin layer of Tiger Seal over it. Tiger Seal is a polyurethane sealant and adhesive which is flexible but really tough when cured. it also sticks really well to just about anything. The fix is a little ugly, but it will do until the replacement arrives.

The other work carried out was largely cosmetic. I replaced the chrome mirrors with black ones, which necessitated removing both the front wings, the front valance, lights and front bumper. Although the front inner wings are in very good shape, with zero rust, the wings themselves will need minor repair work in the future, mainly around the mirror holes. They’ve been repaired in the past, but not terribly well. I gave the inner wings a clean and some anti-rust treatment before the outers went back on.

I also replaced the 40mm rubber strips, which act as a liner between the inner and outer wings, to prevent dirt and mud getting in. The originals had gone rock hard and were disintegrating. They were very simple to install as they are retained by simple metal tabs.

The front bumper was getting frilly along the top edge under the trim and was also dented at both ends and bent in the centre. I stripped off the paint and filler, straightened out all of the damage and welded in new metal along the top edge, before priming and repainting it in a mid grey metallic. Part of the metal work involved putting a curve back into the top edge. At some point it’s been nudged into something, which had flatted the centre of the bumper. Re-curving the bumper was easy using my metal shrinker, but the stainless steel trim didn’t fit at all afterwards, as that had suffered too. It took a great deal of time to get the trim reshaped and back into a useable condition! To reshape it, I had to use the shrinker again, but it mars the metal terribly, so a lot of finishing was required to get the damage out. I’ve yet to finish polishing it but it’ll look fine when it’s done. The rear bumper needs a refurb too, but I’m waiting until the car is registered and I have plates, as I don’t think I can get even a small UK motorcycle number plate into the recess in the bumper, so I may need to alter that.

The final job before the Max went off for a test, was to sort out the front fog light lenses. The car came with mismatched lenses… one amber and one yellow. There was a matching amber one among the spares parts in the boot, which I had fitted to the car so that they matched, but it was badly cracked. The other amber one was also in pretty horrible shape too. Only the yellow one was nice, but as it’s mega unlikely I’ll find another, I thought I would have a go at making some replacements myself. I cleaned and polished up the yellow lens, then made a two piece mold of it using casting silicone. It took a couple of attempts to get this process right, but the second mold came out perfect. I used this to cast a pair of clear lenses using polyester resin.

These are just a temporary fix for now, as I intend to have another go at making some, but with a yellow tint and using polyurethane rather than polyester, as it’s not quite so brittle. I’ll go into the details of how I do this in a future post, as it’s a useful trick for replacing unobtainable parts.

Since the Max arrived, I have done nothing to the engine, other than fit a new distributor cap, so it was perhaps a bit of a gamble to just jump in and drive it to its first MOT test. Not only did it get there and back trouble free, it also passed the test with flying colours. It was good to be able to give the underside a look over while it was up on the ramp. It’s in amazing condition! From the underside looks like a 2 or 3 year old car. It also looked comically tiny on the ramp!…

This was my first drive in it on the road, so I didn’t really know what to expect, other than it would be great fun. It certainly was that, despite being a bit leisurely. It definitely needs some tuning, as it doesn’t run all that well at part throttle and it’s way more lacking in performance than its factory rated 31bhp should provide in such a light car. Also, it’s no Mini Cooper in the handling department! Although it grips well and feels quite nimble, it’s also a bit skitty in a straight line and so isn’t particularly confidence inspiring as you enter corners! I’m not convinced that the steering alignment is set up correctly, so I’ll look into that. Despite these shortcomings, the brief trip to the MOT station put a massive grin on my face! It’s quite spritely from a standstill and the two stroke twin sounds fantastic. I cannot wait to get it on the road so that I can drive it again. It also turns more heads than a Lamborghini.

While I wait for registration, I’ll carry on with a few other tasks, such as replacing the side window seals and giving the engine tune up. The trip to the MOT station revealed that the gearbox is leaking oil, apparently from the reverse light switch, so that’ll also need looking at. I want to bleed some fresh fluid into the brake system and give the brake linings a check over too. More soon!

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