Our Cars : Project Vanden Plas – wiping those problems away… and finding more!

Mike Humble

Come and meet "Douglas" on the AROnline stand at Peterborough.
The Maestro goes all heritage (again) thanks to a knackered thermostat housing

So, what do think of the news, eh? Yer man has returned to where he belongs and I have an immobile old banger cluttering the drive so, from a personal point of view, as far as AROnline is concerned nothing’s changed for me but it’s good be back to the old routine once more. Welcome back Mr. Adams.

That’s the sycophantic twaddle out of the way… what’s occurring with the Maestro? Well, apart from ‘er indoors moaning and groaning like a Lego brick trapped in the hoover every time she draws the curtains and takes in that marvellous view of gold paint, rust and shocking panel gaps… I’ve been a little busy. With little warning the wiper linkage decided to dissolve like a Junior Disprin during a commute in the rain that resulted in the wipers sweeping with a comedic albeit wonky sweep – complete with obligatory clonking sound. The rain came down like an Indian monsoon so it was an about turn and a jump into the cosy world of the 75 for my evening commute.

Work gets underway on my hybrid wiper linkage modification.
Work gets underway on my hybrid wiper linkage modification

Some exchange of communication with former Editor Craig Cheetham secured a secondhand item from up North, so the Maestro was “up on blocks” until the postman came knocking. In true AROnline fashion the long box arrived a couple of days later and there was a 50/50 chance it would be the right part – and guess what? It wasn’t. The ball joints that secure the linkage to the wiper motor were wrong and there was no alternative forthcoming in time for the BMC/BL Rally & Spares Day at Peterborough – I switched the kettle on and had a long think about working a way round this.

Sadly, my local breakers, G.W. Bridges of Pease Pottage, are unusually right out of life-expired Maestros and a couple of calls to some contacts of mine also drew a blank. I then thought I could splint the badly corroded and snapped linkage with a part of the incorrect item that was sent down. With some A-Team incidental music tinkling in the background, I rustled up a working repair in the shed and then offered it up to the car – wahey,  it worked. So if you have a problem, and no one else can help, and if you can find me… maybe you can hire The AROnline Team (replace machine gun sound effects for those of a backfiring Marina)

Thanks to a brace of jubilee clips and some anti corrosion paint it all works properly again.
Thanks to a brace of jubilee clips and some anti-corrosion paint it all works properly again

Wipers working once more, I turned my attention to the interior panel lights. This was a rather cheeky little fault that’s bound to make any driver chuckle with laughter at night – the dashboard went pitch black if you ran over a pot hole and then came back to life if you hit another. The rheostat was knackered – so, with a little tinkering, I have got the dash lights to stay on full brightness until another can be found. Also of note is the now functioning fibre optic column stalk illumination, a cigar lighter that no longer flies out and sets fire to the carpet and a fully working bank of switch illumination, too.

The steering wheel that was almost 1/4 of a turn out of alignment has now been corrected and it was good to notice the factory torque marking to confirm it had never been removed after leaving Cowley. As you can guess, prior to the fettling, a Maestro at night with on the cock steering, a facia that flickers on and off like a dying fluorescent tube allied to a blowing exhaust is only marginally less traumatic and sickening than being mugged in Soho at knifepoint. The blow is coming from the front pipe and the best I have managed has been to quieten it down a touch.

Anyone who has owned a classic Mini or anything A or B series powered will relate to this sorry image.
Any DIY mechanic who has owned a Maestro/Montego, classic Mini or anything A or B-Series -powered will relate to this sorry image of doom

Only one annoying problem remained and that’s its twelve mile warm up period – no good for the engine or fuel consumption. My laser temperature gun shows that the radiator warms up at the same rate as the engine – obviously, this proves that either the thermostat is missing or stuck wide open. I recall buying one about 10 years ago and after turning the shed over it was found in one of my many boxes of odds and ends – complete with gasket. To digress for a sentence or two, I reckon all the accumulated new old stock parts I have could go some way to assembling a complete car. Saying that, you would probably need to paint a mental picture in a similar vain to the Johnny Cash classic – One Piece At a Time.

Despite copious dousing with releasing fluid, one of the M8 bolts sheared clean off and, after getting the stat housing off, the thermostat was indeed stuck wide open. As it stands at the moment, the housing is soaking in a tub of diesel mixed with releasing fluid and a soupcon of hydrochloric acid in the shed – it’s quite a pungent smell too and I have placed biohazard placards on the door to keep the cat out*. Later, I shall attack it with punch drift and a big hammer – and, if that fails to work, I guess I’ll have to see if I can remove the sheared stud from the thermostat housing.

Will the Maestro make the BMC/BL Rally and Spares Day in Peterborough this coming Sunday? You’ll have to pop along to Ferry Meadows to find out!

[Editor’s Note: * Regular AROnline readers can rest assured that Stella, the workshop cat, came to no harm.]



Mike Humble


  1. The sight of a gold/rust coloured Maestro must be a thing of beauty in leafy Horsham, although the neighbours might think otherwise.
    There must be a curse with project cars and the BL SHOW lately as the 214 from last year spat its sparks everywhere when the coil packed up on the week leading to the show.

    But hats of to you on a top bodge on the wipers,needs must as they say.

    • I’ll show you it on Sunday Neil.

      OBTW… The seized stud is now free… Guess what? I’ve just found an almost correct M8 bolt too, just needed 5mm sawing off the thread…. Kershwing!

  2. Always enjoy reading how you fix old motors. You must have been cursing when the bolt sheared. How did you get it out – with a stud extractor ?

  3. Words cannot even describe the ingenuity of Mike Humble. I’d have him on my team in ‘Scrapheap Challenge’. Mike, send me a list of your favourite ales and I’ll see what can be procured in time for Sunday…

  4. You really must not attack your cat with a punch drift and a big hammer . The RSPCA will not like it . Nor will the cat

  5. Really pleased you put the bio-sign up for the cat, we need more H & S towards pets when working on old motors xxxxx

  6. May I add a serious postscript to the light-hearted discussion about the cat . It is to urge you, if you have a cat, not to use ethylene glycol based antifreeze, but to use propylene based ones instead (available from central heating places ) . Ethylene glycol is absolutely lethal to cats – as little as 10 mls can and indeed will kill . It is sweet and attracts them , and quite why the manufacturers will not add a bitter additive to prevent its being attractive defeats me. If you have to use it, as I’m afraid I do, be absolutely sure to wash away any spillages , even from e.g. radiator overflows , immediately

  7. Unfortunately not ARO related, but I had the same thermostat stud shearing experience on my Citroen BX17 RD. I was performing a full service before departing for the south of France and decided that perhaps I should change the thermostat and lo and behold one sheared bolt. Just to make it more awkward, Citroen in their wisdom used 7mm torx head bolts. I managed to carefully drill down the centre and then armed with a M7 tap set I recut a thread – Job Done. It lasted another 30,000 miles so it must have been Ok.

  8. Moaning like a ‘Lego brick trapped in the Hoover’ – another classic Humble’ism that makes reading these articles so much more amusing than simply satisfying our motoring related needs, well done Mike!

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