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WW1 Peerless lorry restoration

Great War truck

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I have a friend with a penchant for leather, though this is probably not the place for that sort of thing...

Actually, a friend of mine worked as an orthotist at the local hospital. When I needed leather clutch linings all I had to do is provide him a template (the drawing office at work had an A1 plotter in those days) he would contact his footwear supplier and the linings would come back in return for a NHS prescription charge. £5 from memory.

Between us, we've relined 3 Saunderson tractor clutches and two Albion clutches. 

Our technique is to soak the leather in water for a week and apply it to the cone while it is still wet (and supple). Punch the first two holes, fit the rivets but don't rivet them up, pull the leather up tight, and mark the next hole. Punch the hole half a hole short and pull up tight with the rivets. Continue like this until all the rivets are in place. Then remove the rivets one at a time and replace them with short annealed ones and rivet them up. 

I'm not sure how practical this method would be for lining the steel backing strip as used in the Peerless. 

As the leather dries it shrinks and pulls up tight to the cone  

We then "fit" the cone to the flywheel by blueing the inside of the flywheel, spinning the cone into the cups and filing the high spots with a rasp. 

I've never had to uniformly reduce the thickness of a leather lining; I'm intrigued to know how you get on. 


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Thanks for your thoughts, Doc. I have never seen the process described before. We will just have to wait and see now. Next time I go down I want to drop it into the flywheel and see how well it fits. Bluing it and dressing off the high spots might well be the solution as I don't think it will be too thick, just not very round. I'll keep you posted!

Steve   🙂

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This week's excitement has been a trip to CPA in Grantham to pick up the radiator core which has been dipped and soldered up. When I say soldered up, I mean it!



That solder is 3/16" thick!



It all looks sound though and he even painted it and cut some gaskets which I wasn't expecting. Nice guys to deal with and they did what they promised when they promised so you can't ask more than that!

Steve  🙂

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Dad did the tanks some time ago and they have been sitting in my living room for the last few weeks awaiting the core.


The overflow pipe should be soldered into a brass fitting which is then mounted in the back of the header tank with a nut.


First task was to identify the thread which turned out to be 1/2" NPS which taps and die, I didn't have of course. Soon remedied and the die is WD marked and 1952. I think of 1952 as recent but it is almost 70 years ago!


A general clean up and re-soldering and I turned up a new pipe nipple for when we are ready to install the overflow.


Now the bottom tank. Back to thread identification again and this time they turned out to be British imperial so the drain plug is 1/2" BSP. This seems odd but I eventually twigged that the tank is an iron casting marked on the back 'WD Peerless' which suggest to me that it came out of one of the ASC workshops and probably collected British imperial threads. This lorry will be a nightmare for whoever ends up with it in the future!


3/8" BSW!


The flange face was very pitted so I took the opportunity to give it a skim.


1/8" BSPP!


New stainless steel studs and a new gasket and ready to go.


Same process again for the top tank.


Fitted the overflow with the tube end up near the top.


I had to drill out the remainder of the studs and tap them through again. I went right into the water space to get enough thread depth.


New gaskets and ready for the grand assembly!


Will this be straightforward or will there be some more pitfalls. I wouldn't put much money on the former although it should be easy. Famous last words!


Edited by Old Bill
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Thanks for your thoughts Bill. After all of our previous projects, we expected to have every tap and die we could possibly need but alas, not. It just needs us to pick a French lorry as the next project and then we will have to get metric as well!

On the subject of bolts, Dad has acquired all of the bolts to assemble the tanks and has machined the text from the heads so they are ready to go. However, as we expected the tank to be American, they are all UNF instead of BSW! I am using them anyway. I don't think there is a 'right' way for this lorry!


The bottom tank was easy. All of the holes lined up and it was just a case of going over them, one after another to keep nipping them up a bit more until they were all tight.


I turned the rad over, which was a bit of a performance as it is getting heavy, and then tried the top tank. As you can see, the tube plate wasn't flat by quite a significant amount.


I briefly tried pulling it down but it wasn't going to go that far so I resorted to adding another layer of cork gasket at both ends. I feathered the ends of the gasket off using the sanding drum on the Dremel which worked quite well.


A good layer of Heldite liquid sealant before bolting up and all was well.


dad looked out the hose fittings and has cleaned them up ready for fitting.



That is all most pleasing and a nice complete sub-assembly in store for when we are ready for it. I think we need to return to the wheels again and try to get the brake drum off so the wheel can go to the wheelwright. I dearly want to get it mobile!

Steve  🙂

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2 hours ago, Asciidv said:

Steve, does this mean that you have your big mill back under power? What was the problem?


Hi Barry. Yes, my mill is operational again. It has a three phase motor driven by a variable frequency inverter from the single phase. All very convenient for me except that the inverter died. A pal of mine very kindly investigated it and fitted a new inverter for me so all is well again!

Steve  🙂

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On 11/1/2021 at 6:43 AM, Old Bill said:

The bottom tank was easy. All of the holes lined up and it was just a case of going over them, one after another to keep nipping them up a bit more until they were all tight.



I have been recently building up a radiator for a tractor from parts from several sources. It is much narrower than yours and has fewer bolts (28 each top and bottom). However, it has reinforcing bars between the side castings as can be seen in the photo, which yours does not have. The tube plate in mine is about 18g brass and it has 310 tubes.

I have been chasing leaks in tubes, having had to block some off. It is painted many colours to protect it until I had an opportunity to paint it all the correct colour after I had finished all the trial and error.


IMG_3973 copy.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tony has been working on Greasers today and picked on this lot first of all as they are identical. Quite different from what we are used to. The Cup is filled with grease as usual but instead of screwing the cap down to push the grease into where it is required, there is a separate mechanism of a rod coming down through the cap and on the inside end of this is a "piston" - so that when the handle on the top is turned the grease is forced out through the usual type of hole in the bottom of the greaser. There is or should be a leather "piston ring" on the piston head. The leather is only sound on just a couple of the ones in the picture so new ones will have to be made. 3/16" thick leather - 3/4" diam and 3/8" hole in the middle. A job for the wad punches. The 11 in he picture are the sound ones but there are more parts of these which may be recovered.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was reading the September 1987 issue of Vintage Commercial Vehicle magazine (i know, i know - i have quite a backlog of reading to get through) and came across Nick Baldwins article on AEC. In it he stated that AEC received an order to build 1,200 replacement Peerless radiators in 1917. I mentioned this to Steve and he told me that while stripping down the Peerless rad he found an AEC stamp in the neck, just visible on the top left of this photo which left him a little puzzled. So, now we know the answer.

AEC neck.JPG

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The supply of parts manufactured by other companies in this time period has puzzled me as well. Some years ago I came across a rear axle and wheels for a chain drive White truck with JAC  cast into the hub. The Catton foundry produced parts for Thornycroft, Yorkshire and others but to see the mark on an American item had me thinking of a  foundry in the USA using the same initials. 

  It would appear this is a replacement part made in England. 


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These rear wheels have been causing us no end of trouble and are refusing to give in without a fight. My last posting on the subject was how Father and I spent two days trying to get the brake drum off without success. We have therefore given it some thought and have applied a more scientific approach. We decided that we would have to make a puller. Whilst Father ordered up some laser cut steel blanks, I picked up this nifty 12 tonne hydraulic ram from our favourite auction site.


I turned up a flange so that we can fit it to any puller we have to make in future and took it down to Devon.

In the mean time, Father had acquired two discs of half inch plate. One was turned with a flange to engage in the wheel.


The larger on had a hole cut in the middle for the ram and was drilled around its periphery so that it could be bolted through the sprocket holes.



Once all was secure, I started winding. The ram is rated at 12 tons but has a stroke of only 1/2". Fortunately for me, although the disc developed quite a bow, the drum let go before I ran out of stroke. I could then slacken the ram off and wind the body into the flange for another bite.


With some persistence, this approach worked and we soon had the brake drum on the floor.


Now to get it into the car!


Father had cleaned up the replacement brake drum and painted it as well so that went into the car along with a new set of bolts.


Then off to the wheelwright it went. Nothing but the best for our Peerless!


The brief is to do whatever needs to be done to give us a sound and functioning wheel. This was fine and he has promised that we can have it back in the new year. Our Christmas project now, is to get the other one off the axle and eye that up. Hopefully it will need no more than a good clean but we shall see. There is no such thing as a straightforward job in this game!

Steve   🙂

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You may recall that we were a bit dubious about the big-end bolts so we decided to make replacements. It was recommended here that we use En24 grade steel so Father got hold of some and set about making them.


He did his usual trick of making them in pairs so that he had something to hold on to. An interesting decision to make was what thread to use. The originals were 3/8" UNS but rather than make the nuts as well, Father made them UNF form instead.


Each has a flat on one side to stop it turning whilst being tightened, and a split pin hole. The sharp eyed among you will have noticed that half of them are longer than the other half. This was a puzzle until we noticed in the parts book that they are deliberately longer in order to dip in the oil and splash it around. The engine is only splash lubricated so this must have been found necessary.


Dad did a lovely job with them and they just require a gentle tap to seat them in position.



The first one is fitted!



I shall have to fit the new pistons and do the rest over Christmas.

As an aside, I made up some paper gaskets to go beneath the blocks. Does anyone have any views on this? Should the gaskets be there or not? I must admit that I am still in two minds over this so your thoughts would be appreciated!

Steve   🙂

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45 minutes ago, Old Bill said:

As an aside, I made up some paper gaskets to go beneath the blocks. Does anyone have any views on this? Should the gaskets be there or not? I must admit that I am still in two minds over this

I have two views. Just like you 🙂

I stand ready to argue against all stated opinions on both sides. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

The saga of the wheels continues! We desperately want to get the back wheels on the chassis so we can tick off 'rolling chassis'. However regular readers will recall the fight we have been having with them. Our two best wooden rear wheels were on a chassis and we want to replace them with an iron pair that we have in stock so that we can refurbish them and fit them to the new chassis. Early in 2020, we dragged the chassis out to swap them over and made a start.


We unscrewed the nut and slid the wheel off, taking its weight on the engine crane.


We then put the iron one back and the job was done.



Preparing that wheel for the wheelwright has been another story but that is currently with him for repairs and we should see it back in the Spring. Then we went on to the LH wheel


This just wouldn't pull off so we strapped a beam across it and tried jacking it with some M16 studding. No joy so then we put the blowlamp on it and got it as hot as we dared, bearing in mind that the wheel is wooden!


Still no joy so Father turned up a ring and screw cut it to fit the hub-cap thread,


A pal very generously loaned us a Sealey hydraulic puller of significant proportions


I gave it everything I could but not a squeak.


We have come back to it today with the idea of sacrificing the bearing by cutting it out and taking the wheel over the top.


I got in with the dremel and then the cold chisel to cut the cage with the idea of taking out the rollers one at a time.




I knew that the rollers have a groove at one end which traps a ring around the inner race so I ground a slot in that. However, the roller still wouldn't move.


I found another bearing in stock and realised that there is a groove at both ends and I have no access to the inner one.


The wheel is therefore still on the end of the axle and the chassis is in the drive way. I have run out of ideas as to what to do next and it is very frustrating. Any ideas please chaps? We are stuck!


Steve  🤔

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Steve, was the wheel turning before you tried to pull it? Is it hung up on the brake shoes? Only two times have I been unable to pull a wheel......... and we had to cut them off......the choice is the housing, the drum, and possibly the shaft. I understand preservation of any and all parts at all costs. That said, you have several spare rears correct? You could put a lot of heat on it, just wrap the wood with rags and wet them........and then drench it after it moves...or stays stuck. You could also use an air hammer on the hydraulic puller to shock it while under maximum load.......often times a GOOD hammer will jar it loose.....don't use a cheap unit........if the drum is causing the thing to be stuck you are going to be in trouble......if it's just the front race heat and shock should pull it.......it's also possible the bearing is spun on the shaft and now two parts are one........in the end the wheels are more valuable than a spare rear end.........then there is the old trick of heating the bearing up to cherry red and pouring/spraying liquid freon on the axel shaft..........not very eco friendly but it will usually make the thing part ways.........

Edited by edinmass
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Hi Ed.

Many thanks for your thoughts. The wheel turns freely and is not touching the shoes. As it is chain drive, there are no half shafts so it isn't hung up there. It is simply the outer bearing stuck on the axle end. I hadn't thought of it turning and friction welding itself on but there are no signs of it overheating and sticking and at the speeds the thing goes I should be surprised if it got that hot. Getting heat into it has been our challenge as with the big propane torch everything gets hot together. However, I am now thinking along the lines of adding an oxy-mapp gas unit to our armoury so I can get the bearing really hot without setting fire to the wheel.

Oh, what fun!

Steve     🙂

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Since everything there is hardened, could you get the assembly horizontal under a wire spark eroder or similar, that would go straight through it with little damage and not enough heat to harm wood?

Edited by Gordon_M
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