VETTING THE WAR-WORN VEHICLE.
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Hints to Agents and Others Examining Surplus Army Lorries Before Purchase.
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BUYERS OF war-worn surplus Government vehicles seem, if we may judge fromthe correspondence on the subject which reaches us, to be in constant trouble in connection with the selection from those on offer of a vehicle likely to suit their own requirements and to give satisfaction: We believe that more might -be done by the local agent and repairer in the way of inspection of the vehicles on view prior to sale, so that they could be in a position. to advise customers, and it is mainly in order to assist the agent in the work of " vetting 'i the chassis that the following notes are written.
It must always be remembered--and we say this with emphasis in justice to the manufacturers—that abnormal strains and 'ill-usage are inseparable from the conditions of work which have prevailed in the overseas war areas, and that the weakest spotk: in the various chassis have in consequence been discovered as would in most cases 'never have been revealed under normal working conditions at home. The makers themselves have taken advantage of the disclosure of these defects by a careful study of the circumstances in each ease and hy the necessary alteration in -design or choice of material following up the methods adopted by the Base repair depots. But this knowledge could not •always be immediately applied, although it is certain that not a scrap of it will be wasted.
Thus; in examining surplus vehicles offered for sale, three likely sets of circumstances are to be expected. (1) The vehicle may be of recent production, with the weak spot located in earlier types eliminated by the makers before it -was supplied to the Services. (2) It may have seen enly a small amount of service and a particular weakness had not yet disclosed itself and therefore no remedial measures had been adopted. (3) It may -have had enough service to disclose the weak spots which had been remedied at the repair depots.
Hence one of the first things to ascertain is the age of the lori.y, whilst, owing to the great diversity of the work upon which Army lorries have been engaged; there is naturally to be found a great difference in their condition on their arrival at the sale or auction room.
Therefore, where it is possible to trace the particular branch of work on which any lorry has been used, it will generally prove a guide as to the probable condition of the vehicle.
The vehicles which went overseas in 1914 and 1915 undoubtedly had the great advantage of being cared for by most enthusiastic workers, and well driven by large numbers of the best drivers • who joined the Army for those specific purposes.
On the other hand, thoughthe Government teaching of drivers was necessary, from the point of view of economy of man 'power, yet it was very distressing to see the way in which many thousands of brand-new lorries of the latest and best types were knocked about and speedily redueed to very second-rate vehicles.
Many of the lorries, shipped overseas at the very beginning, were withdrawn after about 18 months, completely overhauled in Base workshops, and then allotted to reserve columns:since which time the total mileage run, by a great number of kthem anyway, has been under 1,000 miles. 'So that, when they come up for sale they are likely to be good, strong lorries, quite reliable for use at home, though they -may be somewhat old-fashioned in appearance.
As a rule, the best lorries did the hardest work, and, certainly, lorries used qor carrying ammunition had a much more strenuous life than those on supply columns and other units whose work 'mostly lay on comparatively back area roads. Further, it may be stated that the lorries attached to siege batteries got more damaged than other types of ammunition carriers (such as those handling small arms ammunition and those supplying 18-pounder field artillery), which had horse transport units to perform the last and most arduous portion of the journey.
Some of the best lorries by British and American manufacturers were engaged on' siege battery ammunition columns, and it is. a 'great testimonial to their
durability th at they were able to Lake batteries into action, and keep them supplied with ammunition in positions which, very often, could only be reached by
d r ler i iag over rough tracks formed by laying, baulks of timber in the mud.
But the lorries suffered, for the work had -to be done at night, with the result that the vehicles were continually getting ditched and stuck in deep shell holes, all of which meant more or less. permanent damage to frames, springs, axles, and wheels. In. some cases even engine be arer arms became cracked and broken by the twisting of the chassis.
Numbering and Marking.
The W.D. broad arrow number is the best guide to the length of war service that any lorry has performed, and, in cases where these numbers have been painted out, it may still be possible to trace the numbees under the new paint. These numbers were always painted on both sides ef the bonnet and on the tailboard of the lorry and they range, roughly, from 1,000 up to 502000.
In ordem to traee the class of work upon -which any particular lorry has been engaged, search must be made for certain marks, which will supply the desired information.
The last order, up to the time of the Armistice, respecting.these various marks,' was that they were to be painted on tin plates, whieh should be nailed to the woodwork of the body in 'certain specified positions. These plates will probably have been removed prior to the lorry becoming available for exaininatien, but in many cases the plates were nailed over the place where the distinguishing 'marks had previously been painted and; though the marks may be painted out, their autlifees,should still be notieea,ble under the new These marks will be .found on both sides of the driver's cab and on the tailboard. If no trace can be found on the cab, search should be made on both sides of the body. The Principal 'marksi are:—(1) The ace of clubs, denoting supply column-lorries, and (2) the outline of-a. shell, denoting asixenunition lorries.
With _regard to ammunition lorries, these may again be subedividedinte two classes, viz., (a) heavy battery lorries..and small-arms-ammunition lorries (both of which classes worked in conjunction with horse transport), and '(b) siege battery lorries.
The former were marked with a plain outline of a shell, and the latter had the shell outline divided horizontally into three equal parts. In eases where these distinctions can be 'traced, the information which they give is of value, for the reasons already stated. Thus, a lorry On which a 50,000 number and a. "supply column" mark can be traced is, subject to expert examination, an incomparably better bargain than a siege battery lorry numbered 30,000, at anything like equal prices.
Many other marks of various design m ay be noticed, but they only denote some particular u ni t, such as a division or battery, and, being only supplementary to the main distinguishing marks, may be safely disregarded. Lorries which have neither the " supply column" nor ammunition column" mark have usually been employed on some such work as signals (telegraphs), road repaire, or some headquarters work' and have generally been well looked after. This, of course, also applies to lorries which have been on home service works where the conditions have, naturally, been nothing like so severe, in spite of many complaints about our awful roads and their potholes.
Workshops and Stores.
All mobile M.T. units have had lorries fitted up as travelling workshops and stores, and these lorries should be given preference by the wise buyer. They have been under the direct supervision of the mechanist staff-sergeant and the fitters attached to the unit, and the mileage run can be reckoned in hundreds of miles, as 'against thousands run by the average working lorry. These lorries can be picked out by the body, the workshops having a big box body with folding sides and the stores have 'ordinary box-van bodies.
Most of the workshop lorry engines %aye been used for driving the machines on the shop,' so that the engines should be carefully examined for condition. This does not apply in the case of store lorries, which probably represent the best 'bargains to be obtained, and it should pay a buyer to fit a new body to these, if the box van type does not suit his requirements. Some few old-type lorries have been used for this work, but the majority are new-type Thornycrofts, Maudslays, Daimlers, and Peerless, 'end, as such, are excellent quality vehicles. There is nothing to choose between the supply and ammunition column lorries of this class. To deal now with the British lorries and with the points that should be examined it maybe desirable to consider them in, alphabetical order.
Albion (Old Type).
The wheels of these lorries being somewhat small, they were more troubled by shell boles and bad roads than the later type, and, because of this, careful attention should be given 'to the following points:— Cracked cross-members gearbox hangers (particularly the front one) and front dumb-iron brackets ; bent radius girders ; wear of steering cross connecting-rod couplings ; radiator tubes being closed up instead of being replaced.
Albion (New Type).
These lorries were fitted with larger wheels, and this obviated mest of the troubles to which the old type was liable. They were also fitted with stronger springs' though probably the old-type springs would be quite suitable for British roads.
Daimler (Types C.B., C.C., and Y.).
The chief trouble which was noticeable with these vehicles was broken springs, due in almost every case to the driver tying up or removing the governors. Governors should therefore be examined.
The detachable cylinder heads also caused some trouble in the winter, owing to the drivers either being unable, or neglecting, .to draw. the water out of the cylinder head jacket. There is a type of head whieh automatically syphons the water out when the radiator is drained, but in most lorries this has to be done by hand with a syringe. If ice forms in the head, it usually causes a crack inside the head and so lets water into the combustion chamber; 'this can be detected by an engineer, but might easily be overlooked by anyone else. If there is any sort of a knock in one of these engines, the engine should be stripped down, as these knocks range from a mere harmless " tap" up to a broken sleeve or defective bearing.
The three-ton chassis (Y type), when -fitted with a Tylor engine (poppet valve), represents about as good value as it is possible to obtain.
. Dennis (Subsidy Type).
The steering box brackets and steering drop arms should be examined for signs of cracks, and when this has been done there is really nothing else likely to cause trouble in this chassis, which is of all-round excellence. Where great strains had to be met, it was better to strengthen the frame in front of the torque tube front end cross-member and at the point where the .dumb-irons are attached to the frame, in the latter case the fracture taking place at the bottom corner at the junction of the bottom flange with the web of the frame.
Beyond the usual spring troubles, to which all lorries overseas were subject, there was only one trouble at all general on these lorries. That was the loosening of the rivets in each end of the propeller shaft torque tube casing. The joint was generally brazed up in the repair depots.
The magneto cross-shaft drive had a tendency to cause a rattle, but there is a very easy means of adjusting this.
Maudslay (New Type)
Some trouble occurred through the exhaust valve heads burning, and thus getting pieces broken out. The causes of this were as follow :—(1) Dciubtful material. This was soon rernediedby the makers, and would not have caused any trouble except in conjunction with the other faults.(2) Adjusting the operating gear to too fine a setting. This is always a certain cause of burning. (3) Altering the carburetters to give too rich a. mixture in order to get easy starting On bad petrol in cold 'weather.
These lorries, as received overseas, were fitted with Zenith carburetter; and the adjustment of these was such that, starting from cold on the bad 'petrol supwas difficult. At the same time, 'after the engine had become warmed up, it was .possible to obtain a speed of anything up to 25 miles an hour on the road. This .was, obviously unsuitable on . bad roads and under general war conditions, so that, as it was practically impossible to obtain different jets and choke tubes,the writer 'carried out the following alterations, which gave excellent results:—
Reduce the size of the choke tube by 1in. at its smallest point, then cut down the jet to the minimum, B34 and test the engine by starting, and running on the road. The jet can then be gradually opened until the correct mixture is obtained.
The method di reducing the choke tube was as follows :—Drill a number et Ain. holes in the sides of the choke tube, at equal intervals (six holes is the minimum number advised), then fill up the centre of the choke tube with white metal. This will run into the holes which have been drilled, and thils be held, to permit of its being turned out in a lathe. The choke tube is then solid, and can be machined out to any desired size • I in. smaller all over .is advised. Care must be taken to see that the smallest point of the choke tube is at the same height as it was originally.
The advantages obtained were :—(1) Easy starting ; (2) greater flexibility on top gear ; and (3) reduction of the maximum speed to about 20 miles per hour.
Maudslay silencers should be examined; as these were frequently burst, owing to defective carburation and valve setting.
Thornycroft (Type j).
This was one of the most successful lorries used in the war, and has, consequently, done a lot of 'hard work.
Particular attention is directed to the following points :—Rear axle sleeves ; the wheel retaining nut should be unscrewed, and tested to see if it is a reasonably tight. fit on the sleeve. If the threads are worn, they must be recut on the sleeve and a new nut made.
End play on these rear wheels should be at once taken up with washers, as, if it -is neglected, the wheel will gradually punch the nut off the sleeve: Third-speed gears should be examined for wear, also gearlaox bearers, rear spring hanger brackets (front and back), and front dumb-irons, for signs of cracks.
The condition of the propeller shaft coupling rings is important as, if they should break, the propeller shaft may be seriously damaged. Steering arm balls have a habit of working loose in the steering arms, and the shank of the hall then wears rapidly. If this is the case, the shank of the ball should be turned up true, the thread recut and a new nut fitted. The hole in the steering arm can be reamered out taper to take a split taper bush. Fit the bush to the ball shank and then pull it down tight into the arm with the nut. The split bush will, then grip the ball shank ana make a permanent repair . Examine rear wheels for loose rivets, particularly in the hub' flanges, inner and outer.
No very great. number of these was used, and the ones that were overseas nearly all developed the following troubles :—piston knock ; trouble with engine lubrication system ; torque rods coining loose ; a reinforcing plate was desirable in the frame on either side of the rear spring front bracket. Commer Cars and subsidy type Leylands have not come under the charge of the writer overseas, the latter having been exclusively used-by the R.A.F. With regard to the former make some of the lorries in one of the 'Corps Siege Parks had their front axles stiffened by tie rods. The lubrication of the front end bracket of the engine should never be neglected, for the inevitable result is that the engine is no longer suspended on 'three points, and the engine supports become cracked.
There were several other makes in use which the non-technical purchaser would be well advised to leave alone, but he will always be safe in the hands of a qualified engineer and repairer.
.Chain-drivenlorries should all be carefully looked at with regard to the wear of sprockets and chains, as the army workshops permitted these to continue running after an extraordinary amount of wear had
taken place. 7,X-STA5T-SERGEANT.