Topic: True tales of the Super Snipe

This is a very belated thread to document my progress with the Humber Super Snipe.   This first post will describe the acquisition and first impressions of it.   Later ones will describe my progress(?) since then.   Eventually I'll get caught up, but I'll give you a hint: as of late August, the engine runs.

Back in January, dgh posted a link to an ebay auction for a 1959 Humber Super Snipe.   The ensuing thread (http://forums.24hoursoflemons.com/viewtopic.php?id=7933 convinced me that I had to buy it and prepare it for LeMons.   This, partly because it was only a few miles from my house, and partly because I have a weakness/sickness/addiction for British rust, er, iron.   Eventually, I won(?) the bid and negotiated a deal with the seller for both it and a parts car for $430 each.   The "good" one was a 1959 and the parts car was a 1962.

The back story (according to the seller) was that they had belonged to a guy (now deceased) who had stored them at his llama ranch in Rancho Cucamonga, along with a bunch of VWs.   The seller (a VW restorer) had made a deal with the collector's family to buy all the VWs, as long as he also took the Humbers.   Now he was trying to unload them as quickly as possible.

When I first saw the Super Snipe, I knew that it has possibilities.   Chief among those was that I could turn a profit by taking it to the crusher -- this beast is heavy!   My second thought was that I have seen worse pieces of junk restored to concours condition -- was I committing a sin by wanting to make it a LeMons car?   Judge Phil quickly convinced me that I would be doing it a favor by NOT restoring it (http://forums.24hoursoflemons.com/viewtopic.php?id=8190).

This is how it looked that fine day in January:
http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/Karz042a.jpg

The interior didn't look nearly as nice:
http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/Karz059a.jpg

Nor did the engine compartment, which proved to contain several pounds of rodent droppings and other disgusting debris.   But just look at that 3.0 liter Hawker-Armstrong (part of the Hawker-Siddeley aircraft company) in-line 6 hemi:
http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/Karz061a.jpg

A closer look showed that the dreaded British Tinworm had been nibbling at the body:
http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0623a.JPG

Since my employment at that time was, shall we say, a bit scarce, I figured that I would have lots of spare hours to work on it.   Whether it was fate, luck, or the innate perversity of the universe, this would all change just two months later, leaving me with only an occasional weekend to devote to this project -- but that's in the future at this point.

Next up: Where would I work on this project, delivery of the cars, and horrifying discoveries.   In the meantime, I was (and still am) puzzling over the meaning of this badge on the front of the car:
http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0625a.JPG

"I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!"
IOE winner in the Super Snipe -- Buttonwillow 2012

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Seems like that turtle must have won some sort of race? I mean the one on the badge.

Were you able to source some replacement parts for the disc brakes?  I remember somewhere you had said some part either the calipers or the rotors were missing.

Constructor/Owner/Driver - Billy Beer Ford Futura

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Parkwod60 wrote:

Seems like that turtle must have won some sort of race? I mean the one on the badge.

Slow & steady...

smile

Binford "More Power" Racing, 1989 Chevy Beretta GT

#1: "In my area, I have suddenly begun seeing more and more Berettas...what gives here?"
#2: "Simple: your neighborhood is getting overrun with meth dealers, and it's time to move."

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

That car ROCKS.

Captain: Speedycop & The Gang Of Outlaws -'94 Mark VIII (Least Horrible Yank Tank Stafford '09, NOLA '10) '61 Caddy (Org Choice-NL '09) '63 Tbird (EPIC Repair Failure-Gingerman '10, I Got Screwed-Summit Pt '10, I.O.E. WINNER Stafford '10!) '77 Lancia Scorpion (I.O.E. WINNER Joliet 2010!) '67 Galaxie 500 (Judges Choice-CMP '11)
Future Fleet: 1957 Ford Prefect 1942 Buick 1959 Bugeye Project GLCOAT

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Speedycop wrote:

That car ROCKS.

Yes, the suspension is a bit soft.   smile

"I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!"
IOE winner in the Super Snipe -- Buttonwillow 2012

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Personally, I think you need to make one the tow / support vehicle and the other the racecar.

Can't wait to have a car on track that we can pass. smile

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Spank wrote:

Can't wait to have a car on track that we can pass. smile

OOOoooo, them's fightin' words, my friend!   smile
The mighty Super Snipe will pass every one of your hamster-powered roller skates, leaving them behind in a cloud of rust and paint flakes!   smile   It might not pass anything else on the track, but I Have A Dream...

"I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!"
IOE winner in the Super Snipe -- Buttonwillow 2012

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

CowDriver wrote:

The mighty Super Snipe will pass every one of your hamster-powered roller skates, leaving them behind in a cloud of rust and paint flakes!   smile

...And then it will roll over after veering off course.

Proud supporter of the "Bring A Sterling To LeMons" Foundation

I'll make it to an actual race one of these days.  Until then...

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

This is going to become a Gulf Coast/West Coast slow car competition. The Gulf area is dominated by the Swamp Thang Granada. Is Spank the West Coast King?

Wetland American Racing (WAR)  #77 Swamp Thang Granada
2011 Cain't get Bayou IOE and Class C winner
Shop Location: Bayou Self, La.

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Lemony_Snicket wrote:
CowDriver wrote:

The mighty Super Snipe will pass every one of your hamster-powered roller skates, leaving them behind in a cloud of rust and paint flakes!   smile

...And then it will roll over after veering off course.

LOL!
More true than you might think.   Wait until you see our next progress report (perhaps later tonight).

"I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!"
IOE winner in the Super Snipe -- Buttonwillow 2012

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

True Tales of the Super Snipe -- Episode 2

My first problem after buying the two Super Snipes was finding a place to put them.   I live on a hill, and my driveway is just big enough to fit two cars side-by-side.   The driveway is also steep and not very flat, making it extremely unsafe to jack a car up.

The garage, you say?   This is California, silly boy.   Garages here contain all the stuff that won't fit in the house!   Besides, the garage already contains a disassembled Triumph TR4 and my machine tools (lathe, milling machines, etc.), besides all the usual cruft.

Fortunately, a fellow car enthusiast and friend offered to let me store and work on the cars in the parking lot of an industrial building he owns.   There were only a few catches: I had to keep them covered when not working on them (he didn't want to be embarrassed in front of his GM buddies), and I would have no access to the inside of the building unless he was there.   But at least they would be in a locked yard, even if it was 27 miles from my house.   And I would have to haul all my tools and supplies back and forth every time I wanted to work.

The seller had foolishly offered free delivery within 50 miles.   The yard was exactly 47.8 miles.   He was true to his word, if not to his promised schedule, but a few weeks later the cars were delivered.   The fact that the tires were only holding air for long enough to make the trip, and looked like they dated from the Nixon administration, didn't bother me.   It also didn't bother me that each wheel had only two lug nuts.   What got my notice was the fact that when I turned the steering wheel, only the right wheel turned.

Crawling under the car revealed that someone in the distant past (judging from the rust encrustation) had hooked a tow hook to the left tie rod.   It had been bent until it broke.

Fortunately, I had a lathe and a piece of 9/16" rod in my garage, so I spent a relatively pleasant afternoon cutting both left and right-hand threads.   The only non-pleasant part was when the lathe's safety cover dropped on my fingers, mashing them severely.   Oh, the irony.   And pain.

Here is the result of that little project, with both the old and new tie rods:
http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0645a.JPG

So far, so good.   If all my problems are this easy to solve, this will be a piece of cake.   What's that, Mr. Murphy?   You say that your word is law?

Next: Sludge and Unobtainium

"I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!"
IOE winner in the Super Snipe -- Buttonwillow 2012

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

I am confident this thread will provide excellent amusement. Subscribed.

Driver, Pit Monkey, Rod Buster and Engine Fire Starter
Team FinalGear

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

True Tales of the Super Snipe -- Episode 3: Cleaning and Awful Discoveries

After making the replacement tie rod so the car could be moved around, the next order of business was to clean it enough so that we could assess the condition.   As you can see from the above photo, the engine compartment was a mess.   I attacked it with a shop vac, removing roughly two pounds of rodent droppings from just the engine compartment.   Hantavirus, what's that?

The engine and all suspension parts were covered in a thick layer of dirt and grease, thoroughly caked on.   Most of it had the consistency of greasy sandstone.   In retrospect, this is probably what saved the car from rusting into a pile of iron oxide.

My good friend Richard (who will appear several times in this narrative) loaned his pressure washer and stood around (and laughed) as I applied a few gallons of Harbor Freight's best concentrated degreaser and many gallons of water to the car.   Well, most of it went on the car -- the rest got splashed back in my face.   It was a cool day and I was soaked/chilled to the bone when I finished.

I had previously been given a free clue that a piece of carpet under the car would help catch the chunks of greasy crud and aid in cleanup.   It worked and I highly recommend it.

This cleanup also revealed a former resident of the car:

http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0648a.JPG

The next day I took a good look at what I had and made the awful discovery: the brake calipers were completely missing!

http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0652a.JPG

http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0673a.JPG

The best guess is that the previous owner had removed them (cutting the brake lines) to send them off for rebuilding, and had never brought them back.   The seller made a diligent search but failed to find them, but did find a few miscellaneous parts.   We will return to this story later, but now...

Before wasting lots of time on what might be a hopeless cause, I wanted to assess the condition of the engine's lower end.   This means removing the oil pan.

On a Super Snipe, this means removing lots of steering components, throttle rod, shifter linkage, etc.   It also means hoisting the front of the engine two inches to gain access to six of the mounting bolts.   Of course, the manual simply says, "Remove the bolts and withdraw the pan".
Tech writers should be forced to actually perform the operations they write about.   Grumph!

Draining the crankcase had produced only about a quart of thick crude that looked like what came ashore from the Exxon Valdez.   This almost, but not quite, prepared me for what I found after removing the pan:

http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0657a.JPG

There was at least a quart of this sludge, the consistency of peanut butter.   If the EPA knew what I had, I am certain that a platoon of guys in hazmat suits would be on my doorstep immediately.

After cleaning, however, I now had an oil pan that only needed to have a large dent pounded out of the bottom.   A pneumatic hammer made quick, but noisy, work of that.

http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0665a.JPG

Now the big question: what did the bearings look like?   I pulled one rod cap and pulled out the bearing shell.   It didn't look good, and the crank journal had grooves.   They were not deep, but were enough to concern me.   For some reason, the main bearings were in perfect condition.

I showed the bearing shell to several friends (thanks, Pete, Spank, Richard, Bernie, etc.) and got differing opinions.   Some felt like they were "good for one race -- maybe".   Others said that they were totally shot.   Subsequent measurements revealed 0.012" clearance.   An old redneck at the NAPA store suggested putting a thin shim behind them and bolting it back together -- a real LeMons solution!

I really wish there were a database of bearing shells: width, crank diameter, outside diameter, etc.   Then it might be possible to find something "good enough".   You can't just go to AutoZone and ask for rod bearings for a 1959 Humber Super Snipe.   Well, you can, but they'll laugh at you.  smile   Eventually I was able to find (thanks, ebay!) a set of NOS bearings, but that's another story.

At this stage I was pretty discouraged.   I needed bearings that didn't exist and wheel calipers that didn't exist.   E-mails to dealers in British car parts were fruitless, most going unanswered.   Now, you may ask, what about the parts car I had bought?   Couldn't I steal the calipers from it?   Nice idea, but for reasons I don't understand, it was equipped with drum brakes in the front!   This, despite being a '62 and the "good" car being a '59.   Bummer.

Next: Some success!

"I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!"
IOE winner in the Super Snipe -- Buttonwillow 2012

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Rebuilding the engine on my 49 plymouth right now, I found the exact same mess in the oil pan, with the added bonus of the oil pan somehow having a rust hole in it. 

This thread only portends to have a bright future, I feel.

Tunachuckers: Returning to a race track near you in 2014!

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

I've used the shim solution before, think I even have some of the shim stock.  I did that to a 2002 motor and it worked fine.  That was probably 30 years ago and it seemed like only the old timers then remembered doing that.  As far as calipers go, I have some spare TR4a/6 calipers laying around and if the bolt spacing is the same/similar/workable, then you can have them.

1990 RX7 "Mazdarita" 
1994 Jaguar XJ12 (Winner C-Class 2013 Sears Pointless)
1964 Sunbeam Imp (IOE 2013 Sears Pointless)
1980 Rover SD1 (I Got Screwed 2014 Return of Lemonites)

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

With those solid rotors, and being an English car, Girling calipers may work.  Calipers from a Volvo Amazon might bolt on.

Tunachuckers: Returning to a race track near you in 2014!

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

why not just pick any caliper you want and make a simple adapter? you're talking about a 3/8" thick piece of steel with 4 holes in it. while you're at it, get rid of those behind the mounting face disks, they are a bear to service in a quick stop if you have an issue.

18 (edited by CowDriver 2011-09-08 08:40 PM)

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

cheseroo wrote:

I've used the shim solution before, think I even have some of the shim stock.  I did that to a 2002 motor and it worked fine.  That was probably 30 years ago and it seemed like only the old timers then remembered doing that.

Hey, then it isn't a totally insane idea, like some of my friends said!   It seemed to make perfect sense to me.

cheseroo wrote:

As far as calipers go, I have some spare TR4a/6 calipers laying around and if the bolt spacing is the same/similar/workable, then you can have them.

Thanks for the offer, but I already know that TR calipers won't fit.   I have a TR4 in the garage.

mechimike wrote:

With those solid rotors, and being an English car, Girling calipers may work.  Calipers from a Volvo Amazon might bolt on.

Actually, they are (were) Girling calipers, Type 17 to be precise.   Thanks for the Amazon tip, I'll check it out.

Marc wrote:

why not just pick any caliper you want and make a simple adapter? you're talking about a 3/8" thick piece of steel with 4 holes in it. while you're at it, get rid of those behind the mounting face disks, they are a bear to service in a quick stop if you have an issue.

That is what I'm probably going to do.   Thanks for the hint about the sheet metal disks.   I was wondering about them.

I'm going to start another thread to discuss brake caliper issues so as not to clutter up this progress thread.   Go here: http://forums.24hoursoflemons.com/viewt … pid=107578

"I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!"
IOE winner in the Super Snipe -- Buttonwillow 2012

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Its a 5 bolt on 5" circle isn't it? Why don't you go looking around the junk yards for some GM discs in that pattern (BOP & Cadillac Full sized, and Chevy full sized wagons and others post 1991, certain Astro Vans...)

http://www.roadkillcustoms.com/hot-rods … tabase.asp

Constructor/Owner/Driver - Billy Beer Ford Futura

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Sweet motor...  bet it'll sound nice.

Gosh, my business card says 'Tech Tyrant'

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

Its a 5 bolt on 5" circle isn't it? Why don't you go looking around the junk yards for some GM discs in that pattern (BOP & Cadillac Full sized, and Chevy full sized wagons and others post 1991, certain Astro Vans...)

Older Chevy trucks.

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

They could almost use this picture in the dictionary to illustrate both "Spindle" and "Spindly":

http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0673a.JPG

Me, I'd be looking for a whole crossmember and double-wishbone setup. Like maybe Volvo 140 or Mustang II.

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

BoKu wrote:

They could almost use this picture in the dictionary to illustrate both "Spindle" and "Spindly":

http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_0673a.JPG

Me, I'd be looking for a whole crossmember and double-wishbone setup. Like maybe Volvo 140 or Mustang II.

depends how heavy the car is.

perhaps it's just an early implementation of dynamic camber/caster smile

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

3300lbs!

wow, yeah, that'll be interesting. bring the spare spindles smile

25 (edited by CowDriver 2011-09-11 12:44 PM)

Re: True tales of the Super Snipe

True Tales of the Super Snipe -- Episode 4: Discouragement and little progress

As I mentioned earlier, the rod bearings did not look very good:

http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/IMG_4749a.JPG

At this point (early March 2011) I was pretty discouraged.   I had no brake calipers, the connecting rods rattled when wiggled, and replacement parts were not to be found.   The "parts car" was turning out to be a white elephant, just taking up space.

Not wishing to invest lots of effort or money in what looked like a lost cause, I just "puttered" on the car for a few months.   I removed, disassembled, cleaned, and lubricated the starter and generator.   I drained the gas tank -- yuck, what a mess of varnish!   It was mostly just "busy work".

About this time my employment situation changed, from minimum to maximum.   I might not have lots of spare time to work on the Super Snipe, but at least I could afford to pay for "arrive and drive" at LeMons races.   Pete's Killer ZomBee and Spank's Mini & SIMCA were lots of fun, but the Super Snipe just sat there.

Was there any chance that it could ever match the dreams that I had back in January?

http://www.nelsonusa.com/alan/snipe/SuperSnipe_01a.jpg

Next: Good fortune smiles on me

"I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!"
IOE winner in the Super Snipe -- Buttonwillow 2012