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!