29 January 2012

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Someone remarked once that a particular model of Jaguar - an XJS, I think - must have been built around the oil filter, so inaccessible was it. I now know that Ford Fiestas of a certain vintage were built round the heater valve. My first thought on trying to replace one was that perhaps they used child labour, because who else would have hands small enough to get into the space provided? But I couldn't imagine Ford doing that - and I realised that it's all to do with the fact that cars are designed carefully for ease (and cheapness) of assembly. The heater valve went in long before most of the other stuff under the bonnet, and replacing a part of the car in a different order from that in which the parts were originally assembled is always going to be tricky. So at least I have a logical explanation, to go with my with my dislike of modern cars.

And why use those strange clamp things that have to be squeezed to open them out, to fasten the hoses on? Spring loaded, self tightening hose clamps, as I find they are called, and you can buy special pliers to open them out. What's wrong with good old Jubilee clips? Jubilee, incidentally, is a (UK) registered trade mark of L. Robinson & Co. (Gillingham) Limited, number 648779, a very low number which dates it to 1946. Interesting. I'll be careful to avoid using the word in a generic sense now.

The answer to that question is probably that it might add 50p to the cost of making the car, but if that's the case why on earth use an electrically operated valve instead of a simple mechanical one? My old frogeye didn't even have a control in the cockpit - it had a tap on the engine block, with "winter" and "summer" settings (heater on or off).

I could, of course, have bought a pair of special pliers to release those clips (and refit them), or I could have bought some worm-drive ones to ease the reassembly, but with a five-mile trip to the nearest shop it seemed easier to press on with a pair of grips, especially for a car that's going on eBay. I probably made the job take an hour longer than necessary, so time-wise not much in it. Next time, though, I'll invest in the right tool and save my hands a battering.

At least the job's done, which enables me to share the Bunns' wonderful version of a Dylan classic which I only discovered recently on a CD I'd never troubled to listen to.

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