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Restoration Projects
Fire Collector!

As well as collecting various types of fire memerobilia, I have also started a restoration project. This is the restoration on a 1950s Light Portable Pump which was originally used by the Post War A.F.S. and later transferred into the ownership of a welsh fire brigade - serving out the rest of its operational career at Knighton fire station before beigh bought by myself. It was in a sorry state and I am hoping to have it back in original working order but in operational fire service red and silver livery by 2005. I intend to keep interested parties posted on my progress in this section of my web site in the form of a diary. I will also publish a list of people and organisations that might be of help to people who are undertaking restorations of similar machines.

Here is a potted history of the engine used on my pump to get the page started:

Coventry Climax Fire Pumps Brief History

The companys attempt at fire-pump design resulted in a product which pumped water at twice the rate for half the weight of any other at that time. This was due to the company taking on an ex-Bentley and Jaguar engineer in 1950, Walter Hassan who, with the help of Harry Munday, re-engineered the engines. The new 4-cylinder engine was developed in just seven months. It had a cubic capacity of 1020cc and produced 38bhp. It was designated the FW for Feather Weight. Immediately it won a huge Home Office contract to supply fire pumps for the Post War Auxiliary Fire Service Transportable Water or Bikini Units and Light Portable Pump Carrying Units.  Coventry Climax became a household name after the motor racing fraternity saw the advanced design of an all-alloy, free revving, OHC fire pump engine as potential for a racing engine. 

The First Problem

The first job was getting the pumps back to my rented garage accommodation. This I did with the help of a friend and his Land Rover.

Having previously been able to acquire the parts list and workshop manual for the pump, I was able to start dismantling the pump easily ready to clean each part and reconstruct it before refitting it to the main engine.

The Quick Start Method

One of the pumps had not seized and as a result, I used this as a basis and attached all cleaned and painted parts to this pump ready for an attempted start.

Before I could even attempt to start the pump, I had to remove strip and rebuild the carburettor (a Solex model), strip, clean and rebuild the fuel pump and check that the magneto/distributor worked correctly.

The Magneto Saga

The magneto proved to be the most difficult part to refurbish even after taking it to the company that had taken over those who had originally manufactured the parts were unavailable and the employees could provide little assistance. It was only by chance that I found the company that was licensed by Climax engines to undertake work concerning these engines and from this point (pun intended) on that events went quite rapidly.

I took the distributor/ magneto to the owner and he worked on it with me for about 30 minutes. It was then creating a spark on all four plugs and in remarkably good condition requiring no spare parts at all.

Attempting to start a 10-year "Non Runner"!

With the revived magneto spark, I returned to the garage to fit the distributor and have a go at starting the pump. My attempts failed and so I decided to adjust the timin by removing the magneto and turning the engine one cycle and refitting it. This meant that the cylinders were now indifferent positions and if the timing was wrong last time it had to be right this time. After more attempts I managed to get one cylinder firing but the two outer plugs at each end of the engine were dry as a bone. My arm was also beginning to tell me that enough was enough and so, once again, I decided to enlist the help of my friend with the Land Rover. He came and had a few tries and then decided to test each plug in turn and we discovered that one was not firing. With a removal and refitting of the lead, it sparked again and we were set. A small amount of fuel was put down each of the bores and we tried again. The engine backfired once with a lovely firework display through the carburettor and once through the exhaust almost scorching my friends leg in the process but then a glimmer of hope as the engine momentarily fired on three cylinders. This got me really excited and as if by magic, this 50-year-old engine suddenly sprang into life. The noise was extraordinary. The pumps that we use in the fire services today have a high-pitched whining noise which is really irritating but this was unbelievable a deep burbling sound like a Rover V8. I was amazed, astonished, overjoyed, ecstatic, joyful, relieved, excited well you get the picture I was a bit happy as until that moment I had thought that I had had a garage full of aluminium now I had a garage with a working pump in it!

Bearing in mind that the engine had no cooling system, gauges or pump attached to it and there was no water supply, we could not allow it to run for very long as the cooling system cooled the engine and the water going through the pump cooled the coolant and without these three quite major additions, we would soon be left with a garage full of aluminium again - so we turned it off.

The next stage is to clean the other ancillaries and paint the engine itself with heat resisting aluminium paint to improve the aesthetics and of course to fit the remaining systems on to complete the unit.

The antics continue! More news soon!

Do you know of a supplier of parts for these pumps? Are you restoring a similar pump? Do you have any useful advice for me? Did you ever use one? Are you still alive after using one at a fire or carrying one? If you answer to any of these questions is yes then contact me using the contact page!