Car Ownership Guide

An idea which might appeal to owners of cars out there if you have a car which you are interested in and are knowledgeable about then I am happy to write an article about it and post it on this blog.

The work for you is that (unless you are located very close to me) I will need you to answer a questionnaire (and possibly some follow-on questions) and I will need you to have reasonable ability with a digital camera – the blog is going to need pictures as well.

Although I compiled the following article from an interview in the old fashioned – turn up ask questions – manner. It seems feasible that I could compile a questionnaire from this which I could despatch to whoever was interested.

I am hoping that the idea has appeal and will encourage people to submit cars. If you are reading this blog and you’re aware of someone else who will fit the bill by all means pass along details so that they can profit from it.

A considerable number of years ago, when it was easier to dream, I had in mind that I would like to write for a classic car magazine. At that time one of the magazines was featuring a “Best of the Web” article. I was working in IT and loved old cars and so this suited me well.

For a short while I researched and wrote these articles and fitted it in around the day job.

Sadly there was a change at the magazine and it was determined (probably correctly) that the “Best of the Web” article was as boring as a lengthy parliamentary speech. So it was pulled.

A person less given to dreaming would probably have seen the writing on the wall. I hadn’t yet let go of that writing dream however and so I tried to come up with some ideas of articles that I could do.

I was approaching the very limits of expertise. I had no background in engineering or in journalism but I wasn’t going to let this stop me.

I realised that once in a while a very knowledgeable person drawn from a classic car club would lay out what it was like to own a specific kind of car. Such accounts were no doubt rose-tinted and that suited my somewhat romantically idealised view of ancient machines.

So I set about contacting owners clubs but I was aware that I could not use the cachet of any magazine’s name as strictly speaking I didn’t work for any of them.

Unsurprisingly for a very long time I didn’t get any takers.

Eventually however I had a response from Tom Lucas who was the owner of a Lomax. For those uninitiated to this car it is a vehicle that you could assemble yourself based upon a 2CV.

It turns out that I had been very lucky to find Tom. Not only was he knowledgeable and keen, he was also willing to help someone who quite obviously was no journalist.

I have subsequently discovered that Tom Lucas (surely the same man) published a book called “Lomax the First Ten Years” bookfinder.

The car YSU191 has also been the recipient of prizes.

It is also apparently still taxed and MOTd to this date according to the DVLA.

Tom, if you are reading this, thank-you for your help.

I returned to the magazine in the hope of a new venture but it turned out I was not as good at this writing business as I had hoped. There was certainly no suggestion of the article being used.

As a result I am free to use the article on this blog all these years later and hopefully Tom will get to see it here.

This was the article:

 

Ownership Guide

Engine

This is usually removed from a 2CV, the engine can be taken from an Ami 8, Dyane or from the rarer Ami Super.

Most Lomax are built with a standard 602cc 2CV, Dyane or Ami 8 engine (these are essentially the same being an air-cooled flat twin of 30 BHP).

The older 435cc engine (not found in donor cars after the 1970s) will fit but is rarely used.

Useful power improvements can be obtained by fitting the Ami Super engine (1015cc). This is a flat-four air-cooled engine and requires the 4-speed gearbox from the same car.

Alternatively the later Citroen GS (1299cc) unit is a simple exchange.

The Citroen Visa power plant (652cc) provides a more complex challenge. This 38 BHP motor had electronic ignition requiring sensors on the gearbox bell housing which do not easily fit the 2CV. One method in use is to utilise motorcycle electronic ignition from a BMW on the front of the engine.

Officially any 2CV engine from 1985 will run on unleaded; however engines from the 1960s are currently running on unleaded without detrimental effects.

The exception is the Visa 9 ½:1 compression engine, which requires super-unleaded.

The standard engine is “bullet proof,” even modified engines tend to have a standard bottom-end, as it is very tough.

Valve and seats are very hard and recession tends not to be a problem. Valve clearances are checked then checked again after the first 6000 miles. If no recession is detectable no further checks are necessary.

Oil Changes

It is worthwhile doing regular oil changes at 3000 miles – maintaining this interval gives increased engine life expectancy of 150,000 miles with 300,000 miles a possibility.

10/40 oil is recommended for the 2CV but the Lomax has different requirements due to the absence of the cooling fan from the front of the engine. This means that the engine runs hotter than in the 2CV a 20/50 oil should therefore be used.

Use of synthetic (or semi-synthetic) oil is not required.

The oil filter should be changed at the same time as the oil. This is easily accessible as the bonnet can be removed in one piece. It is therefore considerably easier to access than in the 2CV donor.

Parts are available from ECAS (Eastwood Continental AutoSpares) of Stafford (01785) 282882.

Carburettor

The standard 2CV is fitted with a single carburettor positioned in the middle of the engine over the crankcase (a downdraft Solex).

This requires a long manifold to each cylinder.

Post 1982 2CVs, Dyanes and Amis were fitted with a twin choke version – this yields 2-3 BHP extra.

A common modification is to fit 2 motorbike carbs on short manifolds (for example the flat slide Dellortos from a Moto Guzzi). This modification yields significant performance advantages.

Ignition

There is no standard distributor; instead there is a points box rather like that on a motorcycle engine.

This has a 2-lobe cam producing a spark to both cylinders at every engine revolution via a double-ended coil.

The cylinder that is on the compression stroke is able to use the spark to fire. The cylinder on the exhaust stroke gets a ‘wasted spark’.

Modifications include electronic ignition kits from Lumenition – this replaces the points and box lid with a sensor (£115). An alternative “123” Dutch-made kit is available through ECAS. This replaces the point’s box and the advance/retard mechanism (£112).

Gearbox

All gearboxes fitted since the start of production are the same in that they are all 4 speed.

The internal ratios differ slightly, the Dyane having a slightly higher ratio in top gear.

The gearbox is behind the engine and drive is transmitted via drive shafts incorporating disc or drum brakes.

The low weight of the Lomax and its relatively small frontal area (compared to the 2CV) make the gearing a handicap.

Top gear limits performance to around 80mph, as higher speeds would cause the engine to rev excessively (no taller final-drive ratios are available).

Gearbox rebuilds are very rarely required, as they are very durable. For instance large, quality, bearings were used in the gearbox manufacture. Regular gearbox oil changes at 12,000-mile intervals are recommended to prolong gearbox life. Reconditioned gearboxes are available from ECAS (£220).

Brakes

The brakes are inboard – either drums or discs dependent upon the age of the donor (cars prior to 1982 having drum brakes). Changing pads is easy; changing shoes requires removal of the driveshaft first.

Drum braked cars tend to have a more effective hand brake as the disk-braked cars have separate (small) pads for the handbrake. The lightweight of the Lomax however, means that this handbrake system is still adequate in disk-braked cars.

No flexible brake pipes are employed. The solid brake pipes are coiled to take up any suspension movement. Despite this unusual arrangement no brake pipe fractures take place.

The gearbox from a Citroen GS comes with 11” disc brakes which would seem a useful modification. However, the Lomax is already significantly lighter than the donor car so no changes to the brakes are necessary.

Later Citroens with disc brakes do not use standard brake fluid but LHM mineral oil. The seals on these cars are a different material to those on drum-braked models (which use standard brake fluid). This means that the correct fluid must be used. In addition when replacing the rear-wheel brake cylinder it is critical to select the right one (the LHM version is painted green).

Rust

The body of the Lomax is GRP and hence does not suffer from rust problems; however the chassis is of steel and from the donor car.

Earlier cars had better chassis (those built in the late 1960s) particularly the Ami – these are therefore better donors.

The chassis from an Ami Super is a good choice as it is made from 1.2mm steel. The 2CV chassis is made from 0.8mm steel.

Cars manufactured between 1987 and 1990 tend to be more prone to rust and should be avoided.

Alternatives include a galvanised square section tubular steel chassis produced by The Lomax Motor Company.

Alternatively ECAS sell a galvanised replacement 2CV chassis for £430.

Preservation of the chassis when constructing the car is recommended. To do this, prop the framework against a wall so that it is close to vertical. Pour in Waxoyl from the top and allow it to drain through.

The exhausts rot out regularly due to the small engine and long exhaust, the rear of which remains relatively cool even with prolonged use. This means that acids tend to condense causing deterioration of the back box.

It is common to use a motorcycle silencer on the Lomax, but in this application a stainless one is recommended.

Body

The body is all GRP and the floor is of plywood.

The GRP gelcoat is a popular finish to leave the car in when first assembled.

The colours available include British Racing Green, Pillar-Box Red and Anchusia Blue.

However the finish tends to fade in UV light (i.e. in the sun) dark shades particularly becoming unattractive after a number of years. The car can then be sprayed conventionally to disguise this.

Crazing of the GRP can occur at stress points over extended periods of time. Replacement panels are available or if the body tub is affected it is cheaper to grind away the gelcoat and fill with fibreglass resin.

Suspension

Most Lomax cars are assembled using the 3-wheeler format– this entails removal of one of the rear suspension arms. The remaining arm is modified at the Lomax factory allowing it to be turned through 1800 to be inboard of the rear chassis arm (which is removed).

The suspension is totally derived from the 2CV with horizontal canisters containing the road springs.

The kingpins tend to wear if they are not greased at 500-mile intervals. To replace these, the driveshafts have to be removed and the bushes replaced with a press or a sledgehammer and a drift can be employed for similar results. After 2 or 3 sets of kingpins have been fitted the arm is too worn to accept another set and must be replaced (£95).

The suspension arms turn on taper-roller bearings which can show signs of wear at 100,000 miles (£24.50 each – 2 of per unit) – they are sealed for life so once fitted need no maintenance.

Genuine Citroen telescopic shock absorbers are required (£65) as they are designed to work on their side – conventional shock absorbers would wear out very swiftly if employed.

The Lomax suspension is lowered when compared with the donor 2CV. The suspension arms have tie rods, which are threaded. Releasing these rods a few threads lowers the suspension. This increases the kingpin castor angle improving the self-centring of the steering with a slight increase in kingpin wear as a penalty.

The lowered suspension can “bottom-out” and so modifications have been developed to use both suspension canisters.

Lomax has chosen to use a “rear anti-roll bar.” An alternative is to use the arrangement originally designed for a competing kit car (the Falcon). A front anti-roll bar on the three-wheeler is a requirement to prevent the car banking hard into corners.

The anti-roll bar from a Citroen Ami 8 or Ami Super can be used to make cornering safer (these are now scarce). The Lomax Motor Company now manufactures its own version. Alternatives are available from other kit-car manufacturers e.g. Black Jack in Helston.

Performance Improvements

The air filter is a bulky item which can be improved with a low restriction type, such as that manufactured by K&N.

Removing the front cooling fan and ducting is good for 2 BHP.

Carburettor improvements include use of the later twin-choke version (2-3 BHP over the standard item) or use of twin motorcycle carbs.

Performance cams are now available due to the popularity of 2CV racing.

Modifications include boring out a standard 2CV engine to fit a Citroen Visa piston – this raises capacity to 650cc whilst retaining the same stroke as the 602cc. The downside is that the cylinder side wall is made very thin by this modification and the engine can seize whilst running in.

Swapping the 602cc engine for the 650cc engine from the Citroen Visa is workable (the camshaft in the Visa engine is “hotter” than standard) but this is not an easy modification.

Driving

3 wheeled driving is a very different experience. The car has a sports car stance being close to the ground and alighting requires climbing down into the seats.

The suspension retains the donor’s ability to soak up potholes – only finding difficulty with the taller “sleeping policemen”. If the rear wheel hits a diesel patch or wet manhole cover then the rear can step out, but will swiftly regain traction.

The insurance is very low due to the small engine size.

There is lots of capacity in the boot for shopping or even continental touring.

The car is relatively safe in accidents due to built-in weak points in the Citroen chassis– a built in “crumple-zone”. These fold in the event of accident protecting the cockpit from serious damage.

The performance is better than the 2CV donor with good acceleration and 80mph normal. It will cruise at 70mph easily.

It is equally manoeuvrable handling twisty back roads faster than a number of conventional vehicles.

The controls are conventional apart from the gear change pattern where 1st is opposite reverse. The handbrake is an umbrella version (from 2CV donor) although some builders have opted for a more conventional handbrake layout.

 

 

With thanks to Tom Lucas for advice and information. Tom is the author of “Lomax the First Ten Years” (£10 from most bookstores).

 

 

 

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Hero Story

From one of my courses I was asked for a story about a hero. I chose Stanley who was a hero to me. I hope that you love him as I did.

“Sodding James Bond I mean where would he be if that guy Q hadn’t invented the exploding pen or the rotating watch I ask you that?” Stanley muttered distractedly attacking the edge of a piece of metal with a brutal looking file.

“It’s the engineers that save the day not some jumped up toss-pot in a bad-fitting suit”.

“Oh yes I’m certain he has all the beautiful girls, sex life of a bonobo chimpanzee that one. But without a rocket launcher in that car of his he would have been toast long since.”

Stanley was nursing a particularly fearsome hangover. He had retreated to a favoured part of one of the many sheds in what had once been termed a garden.

The previous evening had been another unsuccessful one.  His normal prejudices returned in force as he mentally revisited the experience.

“It isn’t as if I have any need of company” “I’m never in need of anyone when I have a broken Morris Minor and a new clutch kit”. “I just sometimes feel that it would be nice to have a drink”. “Is it my fault that all the places which sell respectable beer also seemed to be the popular ones?” “It isn’t that I actually want to meet anyone”.

“The problem is that I am invisible” – “All engineers have to be invisible”.

In Stanley’s mind the world had no respect for engineers or engineering things. The evidence for this perspective was scanty. Currently this evidence consisted of the preference for meddling secret agents over dependable engineers who provided their toys. Nonetheless Stanley was firmly of the view that this was the problem.

At times, despite the need to rewire the reversing light on the Series III Land Rover, something would push Stanley to go to the Skink and Partridge, the Rat and Falcon or the Snail and Marten to stand, and drink, and watch.

“When you’re an engineer you should just keep your gob shut,” Stanley said to himself, “Especially if you’re drinking Old Thumper”. In Stanley’s mind he was never more translucent than after a nice half of Old Thumper or Mainwaring’s special.

He had to proffer large sums of money across the bar even for the landlord to notice that he wanted to order something. It was even worse if he tried to talk to someone whilst the beer evolved itself onto the bar in front of him.

“For some reason when I mentioned the internal diameter of the O-Ring seal on an MGA Brake Master Cylinder it’s as if I never existed”. “I’ve seen People look straight through me, talk with people who were stood behind me or try to walk through me as they dash for the door. (I’m never certain what the damn hurry is either)”

“If I could just stay silent”

The idea of staying quiet had come to Stanley following many such visits. It was a reasonably effective idea at least initially. However then the second half of Old Thumper would take effect

“I was quite happy to stay silent” he said to himself despairingly.

Stanley would prop himself against his favourite oil-stained corner of the bar. He would maintain a careful silence – at least at first. However The Rat and Falcon did sell such excellent bitter. Many a nearby person would consume rather a lot of it.

By the time that Stanley had consumed the second half of Old Thumper someone would lean on the bar next to him and would begin to talk to the wall. At least Stanley was pretty certain it was the wall so convinced was he that he was invisible.

Stanley had learned that in these moments of “addressing the wall” the imbibers of the Rat and Falcon would have nothing to say which was of interest either to him or the Verdigris infested horse brasses behind him.

The conversations always went along similar lines. It could be the problems with the mortgage payments, the girl who was so fine that no later woman had been her like. Sometimes it was the late-diagnosed illness from which the imbiber would not recover.

The conversation was always about the people themselves. It was as if Stanley wasn’t there.

At this point Stanley had learned it was wise to nod and not to say anything.

The talking seemed to make his invisibility much worse. However he seemed unable to control his impulse to talk.

Last night for instance a very nice lady had drifted over.

Queenie was a little heavily made up. This was unfortunate given the mascara staining – a result of the liquid pouring from her eyes.

“No one respects me” she had said. Stanley hoped that the horse brasses were making notes in case she asked questions afterwards. “I mean I’m a nice person”. Stanley wasn’t clear what relevance this could be to the green flock wallpaper but like him it was keeping its own counsel on the issue.

Encouraged by the wallpaper’s silence she continued. “Cliff seemed such a nice one; he didn’t hit me very often, only on his days off”. “But then” (and she raised her voice at this point) “he made off with all my money. I came home Sunday – no rent, no food…”

Stanley wasn’t clear under which definition not hitting someone often was a positive feature. But he was prepared to take Queenie’s view on the subject.

Over the next hour, Stanley exchanged petrol and grease smudges with the bar stool. Queenie at intervals wailed and sobbed. Stanley developed an understanding of the problem. Apparently no one respected Queenie. (“Everyone” appeared to be male, and from Queenie’s description males who Stanley would not be keen to meet).

So many men had offended, assaulted or departed Queenie. She was now convinced that her value rated that of a penny stamp.

Stanley’s mind had begun to wander and he was thinking again of that missing 3/16″ multi-point socket. It was at this point that he forgot that he was invisible: “Do you know that today I found a long shank pop rivet set.  They are just the most useful things. I can now solve the problem of the sill covers on the MK1 Capri, that’s been bugging me for ages”.

Queenie had looked at the horse brasses with a strange expression. It was as if a set of curtains had drawn across her eyes. She had departed in the direction of the ladies. Stanley looked at his beer and realised a refill was needed. After a few more halves of Old Thumper and waiting for an hour he had realised that Queenie was not about to return.

Stanley had wobbled home the 5 miles with that familiar emptiness intact. He had no idea what one was supposed to do with that feeling once the Rat and Falcon was closed. He finally passed out on the rear seat of the Morris Ital. (The one propped up on axle stands in the lean-too car-port).

This morning the problem kept returning to him. He considered it whilst attempting to extract an offensive Head Stud from an Austin Mini. It seemed to him that the problem was an engineering one.

If he examined it from an engineering perspective he would be bound to come up with something – time for a cup of tea and the back of an envelope.

“So problem – vague feeling of emptiness as yet unidentified” mumbled Stanley – the stub of a grimy pencil protruding from behind one ear.

“Solutions so far attempted:

1) Old Thumper – advantages: tendency to remove feeling of emptiness. Disadvantages – feel sodding ill for days afterwards, hmm,

2)  Listening to people in the Rat and Falcon – advantages: the empty feeling abates for a short while. Disadvantages it returns multiplied manifold times a short while afterwards,

3) Staying home and changing the piston rings on the Austin 3 litre – advantages: enjoy myself. Disadvantages: empty feeling keeps nagging at me the whole time”

Stanley reasoned that he had not identified the correct solution. He thumped the top of the valve television set and sat down waiting the 15 minutes for the picture to appear.

He read once that the digital revolution would mean the end of the old television. But a bit of soldering a few circuit diagrams and he had a digital enabled valve TV from the 1960s.

“Now if I can solve the problem of the digitally-enabled TV set I should be able to resolve the emptiness problem”.

“OK emptiness what is that now? Something missing usually but it’s unlikely to be food” Stanley looked down at the snug fitting overalls a little ruefully.

“Old Thumper seems to assuage symptoms but not for long – so it isn’t drink then”

“Meeting people – initially looked promising. But in fact makes things worse; right about the time they start talking.” Stanley chewed the pencil end bitterly.

“What do we have left?” Hmm, now we have “drugs, sex, medical treatment, prosthetics…”

Stanley’s eyes lit up, now here was a solution he could metaphorically get his teeth into – “prosthetics, yes. I solved the motorised legs problem for that young lad just last week”.

Stanley had used his engineering skill to manufacture legs for a paraplegic. It had looked as if he had functional legs. These enabled him to move at speed whilst remaining upright. It had been a satisfying challenge.

“I wonder if I should just try the sex thing first, that could be promising…” Stanley’s thoughts returned to the previous evening…“heaven forbid…” he said to himself.

“Now if the problem seems connected with being invisible and I get more invisible when I talk – how can I overcome that problem…?”

That evening Stanley was evicted from the Snail and Marten. The use of a brightly painted flying helmet (with the attached flashing lights) and a chest-mounted sign (which repeated his every word in a strobing yellow colour) had seemed to him an excellent idea.

“Sodding Landlord” he said.

Sadly the evening had not been a success. If anything people seemed to find him ever-more invisible. Looking everywhere but actually where he stood.

“Attempt 4)” he said to the envelope – with his tongue sticking out “high visibility suit – complete failure”.

“OK, so attempts to make myself more obvious, talking, high visibility suit – no success”. “Making myself quiet and hidden – attracts people – some success but temporary effects only”. “Hmm” “OK so in fact I need to find a mechanism to be completely hidden and very very quiet”

That evening Stanley slipped into the Snail and Marten early. Making certain the landlord’s back was turned he unscrewed the back of the juke box and squeezed inside pulling the panel in behind him.

After a long and dusty evening during which he had scorched his nose (the Juke Box selections sending sparks through the end of it). He was forced to admit this was not the solution.

“So attempts at hiding – well the hiding was very successful” “however still invisible to people and the feeling remains” “so that is attempt 5”

At this point Stanley made an extra strong pot of tea. The obvious things had been eliminated. Yet he remained invisible and he retained an unidentified empty feeling which he could not seem to address.

“Hmm, so it looks like the specification of the problem is wrong” said Stanley to himself. “The invisibility goes with being an engineer, I like being an engineer so I have to stay invisible. I don’t actually need people at all in fact – I am quite happy with machines”

For some reason the empty feeling chose that moment to make itself very forcibly known. “Oh God I feel so miserable” Stanley said to himself “Why in heavens name can’t I just give up and die right this minute?”

Stanley unconsciously hugged himself – feeling wretched. “Ok so I am an engineer therefore I am invisible. I don’t need people but I feel horrible”. “Hmm, so it would appear that I need to address the feeling horrible part”.

Stanley took his spectacles from the upper overall pocket and pulled them on.  One lens was now near opaque but he was very proud of the repair job he had done on the frame. He’d reversed the Rover over them whilst road testing that wheel bearing replacement.

He turned to the old bookshelf. (This was now his favourite piece of furniture after he had reinforced it with 3mm Angle iron cut from an old bed). He leafed through some medical reference books.

“Hmm, so for each of these drugs it seems that the side effects are equally as bad if not worse than the things that they are treating”. Stanley shook his head in some confusion “I think I will stick with the engineering solution”.

“Now what was that list, oh yes hmm, drugs, sex, medical treatment, prosthetics…

Now the drugs seem a bad idea, the prosthetics didn’t work, so we have the sex”. Stanley realised he had no idea how to persuade someone to engage in such activity. After all – he was invisible.

“It appears I have to hope that sex is not the answer as it doesn’t appear to be a basic engineering problem

…or is it”?

A very congealed looking cup of tea and one very large envelope later – “yes it appears that isn’t too difficult actually”. Stanley set to with wire cutters and soldering iron.

Several days later: Looking at his creation Stanley couldn’t help but have a twinge of satisfaction “say what you like Stanley you are a very good engineer” Stanley enthused to himself. 6ft tall, long long legs, a chest that in any human would have meant substantial surgery and a heart melting voice. She moved with flawless poise like a cat with attitude.

After a really great cup of tea Stanley reasoned that it was time to put his android to the test. However he was forced to admit that, sexy as the android was, he didn’t really want sex with her.

Florrie (as he had named her) wasn’t actually filling him with any overpowering sexual urges. “Still Stanley old man, never find out if this is the answer unless you give it a go”. Five minutes later a very red-faced Stanley lay asleep in Florrie’s arms snoring enough to shake the remaining doors on the old sideboard.

Some time later:

“Attempt 6, machine for delivering sex on demand machine very effective – empty feeling remains, abject failure”

Stanley sat down and ran his calloused fingers through thin greasy hair. “I thought you were a bright one Stanley old man – can’t see how you’ve let this beat you”.

For 3 days Stanley sat completely motionless looking at the wall:

He knew that the crankshaft oil seal on the Wolseley 16/60 was weeping and he didn’t care.

He saw that mould was growing on the teapot again and he didn’t care.

He sat as silent and as still as the wallpaper which he was certain could be seen right though him.

Eventually the demands of thirst and bladder drove him to pull himself from the overalls-sized depression in the sofa.

His lungs were absolutely full – so shallow had his breathing been. He coughed forcefully for several minutes his lungs crackling like fine paper.

“It looks like the medical treatment then old man” Stanley said with some trepidation “that’s all there is to it. Better get yourself a few library books”

Stanley had once been a member of the library. He had a vague memory that the process had not gone well. It was difficult to apply for a library card when the librarian couldn’t see you.

Initially things had looked promising. Until he’d mentioned that the timing cover stud on a Vauxhall Chevette had a left hand thread. (And what a fascinating job it was to cut one by hand). His invisibility had asserted itself completely. It was all he could do to wrest the card from her pale resisting hand.

“On the plus side” Stanley reasoned “if I’m invisible then it won’t be much of a problem taking books from the library”. He chuckled sadly “after all no one will be able to see me”.

As Stanley entered the library the librarian fixed him with a look of such disdain that he was convinced that she could see him. Stanley shuffled across towards her. But she turned to her computer as if he didn’t exist – he realised that he had been mistaken.

“Reference section Stanley – that’s what we are looking for” he mumbled and turned towards the stairs.

After many weeks of visiting the library Stanley realised that he was going to need a computer. Many of the books now referred to computers attached to an Internet. That was going to be a resource that he could not do without. This would be his biggest project ever.

After hours with circuit boards and soldiering irons, Stanley built himself a computer. In fact Stanley had built a phenomenal computer. It would have embarrassed Intel had they realised that it had been built. Stanley had no appreciation that encryption even existed such was the computing power of this device.

Over time he accessed the records of military and medical establishments invisibly and unremarked. He assembled research and records without awareness that he was doing anything wrong. Finally he had what he was looking for.

“Florrie MKII then Stanley I think”

Stanley started again with soldering iron. Florrie watched the creation of a sister, wire by wire, limb by limb.

Florrie MK 2 could have been a pianist, with her long slender fingers. But her eyes held the intelligence of something quite terrifying. “I say again Stanley; if you could only have been happy with what you are you might have made a difference in this world.”

“Still there was no settling this emptiness; it is time to face the solution then.”

Stanley knew that he could not face another night in the Rat and Falcon. So he contented himself with a mope through the local off license. Eventually finding something foul and plastic coated. It might have been considered drinkable by human beings but God alone knows where. However it was effective in silencing the chasm within for just a short while.

Stanley slept, a slow drool from his lip now mixing with the stains on his cheeks – carbon left over from the decoking of the MG.

As he slept the Florrie MK II programme commenced. She gently administered the anaesthetic and watched as his breathing slowed to a regular whisper.

Monitoring him closely Florrie opened the skull of the anesthetised Stanley. Carefully she cauterised connections within the brain.

Wherever research had propounded that social centres were to be found a small section was cauterised away removing the function, excising the need. Establishing (so Stanley had reasoned) a haven of contentment for a fully-formed, self-contained engineer.

After the final stitch she raised Stanley into a semi prone position. She carefully watched his life signs as Stanley, smiling-blissfully, slept.

In the morning Stanley awoke and smiled to himself. Waving his oil-stained arm in front of him – he wondered what it was.

He cooed slowly to himself.

He looked at the thing watching over him and wondered what it was.

His eyes parted with a hazy wonder as he looked around him.

He stared in an unfocused way at the Jensen Healey mouldering away just outside the window and he wondered what it was.

He raised his leg and looked at it for several seconds and wondered if it was part of him or part of this big thing he seemed to be lying on.

Outside the welding set lay untouched, the lathe was silent, and the trolley jack lay as he had left it – in the hallway beside his next-best overalls.

Stanley looked around at this magic place and wondered how he had come to be here.

He smiled a wide-innocent smile and he drifted off to sleep quietly …