Veteran Car Club South East Section
To encourage the use and assist in the acquisition, restoration, preservation, exhibition and maintenance of Veteran and Edwardian motor vehicles manufactured up to and including 1918


1914 Singer 10hp by David Ralph

At the time I bought the Singer, in May 2011, my mother was seriously ill and sadly died a week after I drove the Singer home. I therefore had other priorities so the Singer sat untouched in the garage for a couple of months.

I live in a flat so have no garaging or workshop facilities at home. I have four lock-up garages three miles from home, but at my parent's home I had a couple of sheds in their back garden plus a large carport, driveway and large garden. Here I would do all my restoration work. With the passing of my mother the house would have to be sold, my father having died the previous year. I therefore needed to clear my sheds of a vast amount of parts, tools, wood, metal and everything else I had stored away from over 30 years of restorations. This took several months to sort everything and cram it all into my garages. Much had to be sold or scrapped.

At the end of July I had my Wolseley entered for a VCC run of about 30 miles from Chartwell to Hever Castle for a picnic lunch followed by the short 5 mile run back to Chartwell. This mid-week event is extremely popular and attracts up to 90 veteran and Edwardian cars, but with a sprinkling of vintage cars as well. I set off with high hopes for a good day of veteran motoring but exactly one mile out from Chartwell the Wolseley started making a banging noise from under the car. The radius rod to the rear axle had snapped. There are a pair of these rods which run from the rear axle forward to the front of the chassis frame. The rods are adjustable to alter the drive chain tension. The offside rod had snapped at the front end which dropped down onto the road. That was the end of my day's veteran motoring but I had been very lucky – twice. Firstly, if the rod had dug into the road it would have pushed the axle backwards causing extensive and very expensive damage. Secondly, I was very lucky as I only had a mile to walk back to Chartwell to collect my modern car and trailer.

With the Wolseley safely back in the garage I was going to go straight to Hever Castle in one of my Austins but decided to see if the Singer would start. After two months of sitting untouched it started first swing of the handle and then took me safely to Hever and back. Three weeks later I was due to use the Wolseley again for another mid-week VCC run around Ashdown Forest. As the repairs to the Wolseley weren't finished yet, the Singer was pressed into use and easily covered a total of 75 miles driving to the start near Uckfield and then home again afterwards. In September I used the Singer to drive to a VCC barbeque in Pulborough. I had now covered about 150 miles in the Singer and was very pleased with the driving experience, but I wasn't so happy about the cosmetic appearance.

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By the end of September 2011 I had at last finished sorting out and clearing my sheds so thoughts turned to the Singer's restoration. My parent's house was still being sorted and was unlikely to be sold before the end of the year so I decided to make the most of the time I had left for working in my sheds. Fortunately the house wasn't sold until March 2012.

With a week off work I started to strip parts off the Singer so that I could repaint it blue. When I started I wasn't entirely sure how far I would strip the car down or how much other work I would do on it. Starting on a Tuesday afternoon and working through Wednesday I quickly removed the wings, bonnet, door, hood, windscreen, running boards, radiator, boot lid, petrol tank and floor boards. I then realised there were only 5 bolts holding the body to the chassis so it would be simple to lift the body. There should have been 6 bolts but one was missing! On Thursday a friend came over to help lift the body. He brought with him some lengths of timber and 4 large castors which we quickly turned into a trolley to take the Singer's body. The next day my brother Tim came to help lift the engine out. By the Saturday afternoon all that was left were a pair of bare chassis rails. Just four days earlier it had been a complete driveable car!

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The chassis rails were cleaned back to bare metal before receiving two coats each of etch primer, black undercoat and black coach enamel. I used Craftmaster coach enamels for all chassis and body painting. A large pile of chassis components were taken for sandblasting at Autoweld in Broadbridge Heath (Tel: 01403 265143). 4 out of the 5 running board support brackets were broken and needed welding. Although I could have done this myself I got Jim at Autoweld to repair them while I waited. Once home all these chassis components were painted, as per the chassis rails.

The front springs were a problem as they weren't a matched pair. The offside spring was much stronger than the nearside one. This caused the car to sit lop-sided. I found that the top leaf was the correct original made from 3/16" thick spring steel but all the lower leaves were ¼" thick. I took both springs to Brost Forge in London who remade the incorrect spring and then reset both springs slightly flatter as the car had been sitting too high at the front. Brost Forge is in London N7, close to Pentonville Prison. Not an easy place to drive to so I wrapped the springs up and took them up on the train and tube. I was a bit worried I might get arrested by armed police as the wrapped up springs under my arm could easily have been mistaken for a shot gun!

Everything else on the chassis seemed to be in good order with minimal wear. It was therefore a straightforward job of cleaning and painting. The gearbox, 3 forward and reverse, is inside the rear axle. Fortunately this had been rebuilt with new bearings by the previous owner so I left well alone. The brakes (on the rear wheels only) have separate shoes for the foot and hand brakes. A large diameter pair of shoes for the foot brake with a small diameter pair inside these for the hand brake. The brake drums are two drums in one casting. The brake shoes are cast iron operating straight onto the drum with no linings fitted. These work extremely well but do squeal a bit. The only problem I found was that some of the brake shoe return springs were broken. Suitable replacements were easily found at my usual parts supplier (ebay!).

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The four cylinder engine of 1087cc has 2 blocks of 2 cylinders on a common crankcase. There are no detachable heads, just brass caps that you remove to gain access to the valves. The engine had been running well so I planned to just remove the cast aluminium sump to clean it out. Inside there was over half an inch of thick black slug. I also found that one of the oil supply holes for the big ends was blocked. The engine doesn't have an oil dip stick but instead there is a tap on the sump hidden away behind the magneto. To check the oil you open the tap and if oil comes out you have too much but if nothing comes out then you don't have enough. If no oil comes out you have no idea how low the level is and you have to pour oil in until it flows out of the tap. Very inconvenient. I drilled and tapped the sump to take an oil sight glass tube. Now it takes just a quick glance to check the oil level. With the engine on the shed floor I removed the large cast iron water manifold from the top of the engine. I was surprised to see the back block was still full of water whereas it should all have drained out when I emptied the radiator. I removed both cylinder blocks to investigate. The water ways in the rear block were half full of the original casting sand that had never been cleaned out since the day it had been made. There could never have been any water flowing through that block. With difficulty I managed to remove most of the rock-hard sand and water now flows freely through the block.

By Christmas 2011 after three months of working every spare minute I had refurbished and painted every part of the chassis so was ready to start assembling it. On Thursday 29th December I laid all the parts out on the garage floor and started to put it back together. By Saturday 31st December I had a rolling chassis and that afternoon a friend came over to help lift the engine back in. On News Years Day I completed the chassis by fitting the radiator and headlamps. It had taken less than four days to go from a pile of parts to a complete running chassis.

Just the body to do next.

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