All Aprilias are reputed to have noisy first gear gears, and my car is no exception, however when Noel and I took the ex-Clive Beattie platform chassis for it's inaugural test drive the first thing we noticed was that the gearbox was dead quite. The car was first registered after the start of WW2 and was in a state of disuse by 1950 when Clive bought it. We could find little evidence of wear in any of that chassis's mechanicals and it would appear to be an extremely low mileage car. I probably shouldn't, but I think I might pinch the gearbox from that car and fit it to the Stainless Stephen car.
There is a persistent clunking sound from the rear driver's side suspension. I have disassembled and replaced everything I could get at without removing the trailing arms. By a process of deduction I have come to the conclusion that the problem will lie in either the trailing arm bearing, the doughnut rubbers that surround it, or less likely the silentbloc bush that retains the torsion bar in the diff housing. Don Hume was kind enough to donate me a pair of trailing arms, which are now reconditioned , painted and waiting for installation. The passenger side trailing arm needed replacement as the inner wheel hub bearing housing is damaged presumably as the result of a failed bearing spinning in the housing at some time in the past. My attempts at shimming have been only partially successful
There is a problem with clutch judder, some slippage and a noisy thrust bearing. I have a new bearing and have been waiting until I am sure we have identified all the issues we might need to remove the engine and gearbox for, before I fix the clutch issues. The other alternative is to swap the (high compression) engine, clutch and quiet gearbox from the platform chassis. At this point I am leaning towards that option.
The damping in the front suspension is not perfect and will bottom out over potholes. We did have the shockers apart prior to recommissioning the car and all seemed well. Noel found his shockers progressively worked better each time he pulled them apart and put them back together. Joe Wilson found his shockers simply improved with use, I think I will strip and reassemble mine and consider a change of oil. Noel found a heavier oil in the lower chamber gave better results.
The rear shockers are adjustable Koni telescopic. I gave Koni the measurements of the travel in the rear end and the car's weight. The shockers they gave me suited those dimensions but otherwise are standard fitment to the front of sixties Chrysler Valiants. Oddly enough they were way too stiff for the Aprilia, I took them back to Koni who reduced the pressure 50%. I will experiment more with adjustments once the trailing arms are replaced.
I have been watching Noel's efforts with insulating his car with interest, I reckon I will copy what he has done and also fit an upholstered panel on the underside of the dash as Noel is also contemplating.
Eradicating rattles from the doors and window mechanisms will be another challenge, but fortunately Noel has already been down that path with his car and has come up with a couple of innovative solutions.
The ex Stainless Stephen Aprilia has been back on the road for over a year, happily with no major setbacks. Ben Courage took the car to the 2011 Castlemaine rally while I took the Lambda (and also the ex Clive Beattie Aprilia platform chassis, but that is another story ). With Ben and Noel's help we have gradually analysed the car's remaining shortcomings. After a few setbacks the 12v generator is working well, the brakes and steering are excellent and the car has been very reliable. I wouldn't hesitate to drive the car in peak hour traffic, torrential rain or on a weekend long rally. It can be driven like a modern car and it easy to understand why the car was such a sensation in the late thirties.
There is of course a list of of improvements that need to be made. The car is noisy with lots of transmission and suspension noise and vibration. Given that the car lacks door trims and proper floor mats it is hardly surprising that there a few issues. The body presents well but the interior needs refurbishing and a fair sum of money spent on it. As funds are limited I have decided to concentrate on making the car as quite and as smooth as possible before I worry about the aesthetic issues.
A common complaint with Aprilias is transmission vibration. This is usually caused by worn fabric universals, or out of balance tail shafts, I replaced the universals with new units from Cavalitto last year which improved matters but the car still has issues around 80kph . I am fortunate in having friends who have also dealt with similar issues in recent times, Don Hume sent his car to an array of experts who also improved the car but didn't fix things to Don's satisfaction. Eventually he found his way to a a specialist tail shaft balancing company who eliminated the problem and transformed the car. I have spoken to the company concerned and will despatch the tail shafts to them when I do the planned engine and gearbox swap in a month or two. I have also reconditioned a spare centre bearing assembly and mount to fit when replace the driveshafts.
Chapter Five. Fettling The Stainless Aprilia
THE TALES OF STAINLESS STEPHEN’S LANCIA APRILIA