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Leyland Retriever

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Just picked up on this thread Pete , you are doing a cracking job. I watch with interest.


Thank you Rick, as I say at the start of this blog progress is steady by any standard as I tend to work on the Retriever in fits and starts depending what else is in the workshop, so it may take a while yet.

Work required to finish the frame/cab is rebuild the rear axle, finish the rebuild of the radiator and install it then make a set of cab hood bows from a set of originals that I have been kindly leant. After that rebuild the wings....... not an easy task as they are more fresh air than steel....... I may weaken and get a new set made.....if I can afford it.


After that it's the easy bit to build a reproduction workshop body from plans and drawings I produced using an original MK 3 body.


Pete :nut::nut:

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  • 1 year later...

It came as a bit of a surprise to see that I hadn't posted any progress on the Leyland for nearly 2 years. Truth be told other projects have been in the workshop taking up both space and time.

Now things have quietened down and I've got some time to spend on the Leyland. This is a job I've been putting off but it’s high time to drag out the remains of the front wings bite the bullet, get a new roll of mig wire and get stuck in. Both front wings were more fresh air than steel and a lot of the internal skirting on both wings was missing. Fortunately I have been lent a good pair of Retriever wings to copy, I really don’t think I’d have been able to save mine otherwise.

I made a start with the left hand wing, these pictures show what I started with.







Edited by Pete Ashby
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The first step was to mark out the areas that had to be removed using blacksmiths chalk. I was careful to only cut out one area at a time any more than this and the integrity of the wing would have been compromised as there was very little strength left in the structure as a whole.

Thin cardboard was then held under the cut out section then from the top side using a thin felt pen the hole was traced onto the cardboard the resulting shape was then cut out and transferred onto the replacement steel. I do nearly all my cutting using ultra- thin slitting discs in the grinder as I find it gives a very clean flat edge. The new sections were then welded in using 0.6mm mig wire and Argoshield cover gas.

These pictures show the replacement patches on the upper surface of the wing.





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I've somehow missed the last couple of updates on this thread but I'm glad to see it's still ongoing nd as Rick said you're doing a cracking job mate. Lots and lots of pics please, nice close-ups on all those lovely details too!


I wonder if this site is being backed up by the British Library archiving program, it ought to be!

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The next job was to put some strength back into the wing. To do this I had to fabricate the inner wing sections as these had almost completely rotted away. The challenge here was to re-produce the shape of the wired edge on the inner wing. I don’t have a wheeling/crimping machine so I had to hand fabricate the wired edges. I decided I’d make the inner wing section in three parts and weld them together to make the finished piece. I've had some success in the past reproducing wired edges using the following method.

First I mark out the shape of the panel using a cardboard template with the folds and tabs added




To mark out the tab for the rolled wired edge you need to add on enough to enable the edge to roll over the wire and just touch the inside of the panel, bit of ‘O’ level maths needed here to calculate the circumference of the wire being used then add a bit for the thickness of sheet, (this is a test piece that I made first).




Cut out the panel and bend the wire to shape and cut slightly longer than needed. Clamp the wire on the INSIDE (note to self, check twice weld once :blush:) of the panel along the inside edge of your tab.




Turn the welder right down and make small tacks on the inside edge of the wire at 1 to 2cm centers.




Turn over the sheet and first dress down the tab to 90’ this and the next operation are best done in a vice with bending bars or on a small anvil




Now dress round the wire.




Not like the factory job but ok from the viewing side at least.


So here's the inner wing panel completed



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There doesn't seem to be a specific Retriever thread so this may be an appropriate place to post a couple of reasonable pictures of Retriever front mudguards (Sorry that they're GS versions). Both are from contract V3065 and were abandoned in 1940. Great-looking vehicles.


L384626 marked to 506 Field Company RE :-




L384674 :-



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With the inner wing section fabricated and welded in position a degree of strength had been returned to the structure so I could turn my attention to the rear wing section which was completely missing. The problem here was that although the basic shape was relatively straight forward it has a shallow compound curve left to right and top to bottom and then a short sharp upward flare where it meets the main wing. The only way I could think of getting the upward flare to curve in three directions was to cut into the flare in a series of short cuts to provide relief to enable the double curve and upwards flare so it ended up looking like a fan. The inner edge is a wired rolled edge and I fabricated this using the method I described previously.





Once the whole piece had been welded to the main wing the cuts in the flare were welded shut and ground back. A bit of dressing with a dolly and panel hammer and it turned out ok.



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  • 11 months later...

Nearly another year gone by so I thought it was time I gave a bit of an up date. Progress on the Retriever has not been startling as several other projects have been on going however a little more has been done. My last post showed some photos of the mates side wing repair and so flushed with the result I tackled the drives side wing next if the first one was welding fresh air then this one was welding nothing but a promise, it really was in a very sorry state but in for penny as they say.

The method was as previously explained for the mates side.


The starting point


drivers side1.JPG


drives side4.JPG


drives side6.JPG


Ho Hum better get another roll of mig wire then :-(


Some replacement sections ready to go back in


drives side5.JPG


And so it goes on, more cutting more patterns more mig wire :yawn:


drivers side 7.JPG

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There's only so much fun you can have while wearing a welding helmet so for a little light relief I put the wing aside and thought I'd make up a set of cab hood bows just for a change from all the rust and decay.


Once again I have been exceptionally fortunate in being a lent a set of original early cab bows to copy, (you know who you are and I am indebted to you), it would not have been possible to fabricate them from pictures.


I've made hood bows for several trucks now using the method I'll out line below, others will have their own preferred method but I find this works for me and gives good reproduce-able results up and including tube of around 40mm OD .


The tool list includes a piece of string, a stick of chalk, a wheel rim, 2m of scaffold tube and a 1m length of heavy angle iron and a large flat area of concrete that you can drill holes in and an exhaust U bolt…..all will become clear below.


For the Retriever cab bows I used stock tube @ 22mm OD with 3mm wall which is very close match for the original imperial size used. Next job was to cut the stock to a measured length this is where a bit of chalk and a piece of string comes in handy or (thin wire if you prefer). The point here is that British and Canadian bows do not appear to be formed on an exact 90’ quadrant they seem to form an arc that eases into the bend and eases out of it. I’ve tried large commercial pipe benders in the past and the results seem to form a bend that enters and leaves too sharp.


So this is how I do it:


A On the original bow I marked with the chalk the start of the arc on the vertical leg and the finish of the arc on top for each side of the complete bow


B This is the bit with the string, run the string around the outside of the arc between the two points measure this with a tape and it gives you the length of the arc. (You can do some fancy O level maths if you wish but I live on a small holding and we have lots of binder string so there you are then).


C Find and mark the centre of the top bow accurately with your chalk.


D Record the measurement from the end of the arc on the top bow to the centre of the bow


E Measure with a tape from the bottom of the bow to first mark on the vertical


Add the three measurements B,D,E together this equals one half of the length of the completed bow


Add at least 0.5m to the figure you get the reason for this should become clear in minute.


Too many words here let’s have some photos:


This shows the angle iron and rim bolted into the concrete with expanding bolts they must be fixed very firmly as there is a fair amount of force acting on both during the bending process. The angle acts as a brace and the inside face is exactly 90’ to the inner circumference of the rim. The rim has been drilled to take an exhaust U bolt of appropriate size and adjusted so that it forms a sliding fit on the tube and positioned so that it is set at the point of the start of the arc on the vertical leg……. Eh?……….. OK just look at the photos

The bow is clamped in position ready for the bend.




Slide your scaffold tube onto the free end and make sure it’s tight up against the rim




Now this is the bit that takes a bit of ‘umph’ particularly if bending larger diameter tube so you may wish to 'phone a friend'. Any way start to pull the free end of the bow around the rim you don’t need to do it one have several short pulls keeping the scaff tube tight against the rim or the bow will kink. When I first tried this I thought a bit of heat would help things along…… it didn’t, it was a dismal failure…. along with the exploding concrete singed hair and bad language I produced a flattened and distorted bend so put the torch away and flex those muscles.




It is important that the bend is kept square as the bend progresses. To finish take the free end just past the 90’ to take out the spring in the tube so that when it relaxes it finishes at 90’ to the clamped end





Repeat for the number of bows needed x2 remember you are only forming one half of the complete bow each time.




In the next installment I’ll show how that load of old junk can be turned into a set of bows. I' aware this all sounds a bit long winded but it’s quicker to do than explain.


If you’re doing this without a pattern then you need use the truck bed to get the centre point of the bow and the truck specification to give you overall height minus the height from the floor to the bottom of bow socket on the body. The arc length for 30cwt and 3 ton the arc radius is around 70cm and for and 8and 15cwt about 30cm, this is where the wheel rim comes into use I use a 900x16 rim for the large arcs and a an old style pressed car rim for the smaller ones.

Edited by Pete Ashby
forgot to add the last bit
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One thing I didn’t mention in the last post was that 2 of the three sets of bows have spade ends formed on them before the bending took place. After several attempts with some scrap tube it became clear that even with heating to cherry red and bashing on the anvil I could not make reproducible spade ends with a nearly flat back and recessed front face of the size needed so I looked around for someone who could.

So for the price of a pint I got the ends formed by my local black smith using an ancient drop hammer. A truly awesome piece of kit overhead belt driven with no guards, when it does it’s stuff the whole building shakes and a steady rain of spiders and dust fall from the beams. Instructions were minimal, like most of his craft he is a man of few words ‘Here hold this end and don’t move until I tell you’ that was the limit of the on the job training. A couple passes on each bow end the job was done all that was needed was for me to round off and drill the spades.






After the bending procedure that was covered in the last post I was now ready to make up the bows. First job was to cut off square the spare length of tube using measurement D (from the previous post or the mid- point of the truck bed if no pattern is available) this now produces a bow exactly half the width required, repeat for the other half side.

The centre joint needs to be strong, direct butt welding is not an option even with the larger diameter tubes. Therefore I reinforce the joint with steel bar, it may need a bit of turning in the lathe as it should be an interference fit in the tube, gentle heating of the tube and a light tap with the hammer should be all that’s needed to push the bar in about 3’’ on small tube and around 6’’ for the larger diameters. On the larger ones I drill a couple of holes at 90’ so that I can plug weld the bar and tube together. So now there is one half of the bow with a spigot of bar sticking out, take the other half of the bow warm the tube gently to expand it push onto the spigot and close up to leave about 1.5mm gap between the ends. This bit is key……..make sure both ends of the complete bow are flat and parallel to each other before tack welding the joint, I make sure to pick up both ends and socket with the tacks before welding a continuous bead to lock in position and then dress down to a smooth finish job done,….. time for photo I think.


This shows the finished joint welded and dressed down


hood bow welded.jpg


This may sound a bit of a faff and I have tried making bows out of one length with only very limited success. I found it the devil’s own job to keep the ends parallel and trying to determine the point to start the second bend so that the ends are at correct distance apart to fit the sockets was not an easy task. The two half’s method gives easy reproducible results every time as long as the centre point is measured accurately.

The next job was to make the brackets that connect the three bows together and enable the hood to fold out like a pram canopy. Having items to copy was invaluable although very simple in design the shaping and the curves have to be correct or else the brackets bind on the pivots.

I made the brackets from stock bar heated to cherry red and bent and formed using the anvil, vice and a length of pipe slipped over the end of the hot bar to help start the bend.


These two photos show the brackets in place on the bows in the open and closed position






The pivot pins were made up using appropriate Whitworth bolts welded into square nuts which in turn were then welded onto the bows in the correct position this all sounds a bit agricultural but that’s how the originals were made except they were gas welded and I use Mig.




Loops for storm sheets were copied and bent up using rod of the correct diameter, footman loops for the hood buckles were fabricated from off cuts of 16 gauge sheet. Correct positions were taken from the pattern and then marked off on the new bows and welded on.


So after all that I ended up with a working set of bows shown below in the open and closed positions, there is one more separate fixed bow that sits at the back of the cab I'll show that and the whole set up in position on the truck in the next post.





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Now's the time to see if all the measurements and fabrication stood the acid rest of actually fitting the truck and what do you know it all fitted and worked just as it should :)


These two photos show the fixed bow at the back of the cab and the folding bows in position on the side of the cab






This one shows the fixed diagonal brace that keeps the back bow in the vertical position





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I hate to be a pedant but it looks like the arm on the left side is mounted upsidedown compared to the right hand one.


What impressive powers of observation you do have...... full marks for spotting the numpty :blush:.


It took me a little longer to figure out why it all worked just fine when I first assembled it and then wouldn't close properly when I fitted it on the truck as you point out when I reassembled the front frame I had turned the left hand bracket up side down soon sorted with no pinched fingers.......dammed difficult all this cutting edge technology.



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Thanks for the inspiration Pete have bought myself some tubing and am going to have a go at making my own hoops for my Bedford :D


Cheers RR.


Inspirational now there's a thing Iv'e been called many things by many people :) Let us know how you get on





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