By Geoff Wheatley

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Geoff Wheatley

THE NUTS AND BOLTS of BRITISH CARS As you are reading this item I think it's safe to assume that you have owned a semi vintage British Car. Semi vintage being anything that rolled out of the British Motor Industry between 1945 and 1970. (Please Note my term not any official designation!) I am also sure that at some time you have skinned your knuckles using a spanner, a sorry wrench that looked like it should fit the bolt or nut but did not! There is a complete range of British nuts and bolts that defy logic when compared with American or European fittings. The Morris Empire produced a range of bolts/ nuts etc. that had no reference to any other in the world. A metric thread with a British head that might fit one of your collection of wrenches but don't count on it. This came about when Billy Morris purchased the UK branch of the French Hotchkiss factory located in Coventry, England, in 1923. At one time the Hoctchkiss UK operation had been a money spinner for the French company when it produced a successful light car but in the post war years for reason not quite clear even today, the company turned to the production of super luxury vehicles. With Rolls Royce at their doorstep their British venture went on the sales list and Morris purchased it lock stock and whatever else was included.

As to be expected Hocthkiss used and produced metric fittings including their own fasteners that Morris decided could be useful in the production of his range of vehicles. It also was an economical move as he would no longer need to purchase fasteners from outside suppliers. He took the same attitude when it came to such items as radiators, breaks, pressed bodies etc., buying up whatever manufacturer he could find that made such items.

His motto was simple "Keep in the Family; you make more money that way!" When you are using metric nuts and bolts you need metric tools and this could involve a major outlay for the production lines. So why not retain the threads which are the most difficult part in the production of your fasteners but put a British size head on the bolt and the same for the nut. All existing tools would fit, so what we now call an Economy of Scale was produced. No one ever gave a thought to the fact that this whole process could and eventually did hinder future production especially in the post war years when Britain exported worldwide with Morris, Jaguar, Austin and others being the leading successful companies in the" Export or Die" period. Just to make the owner of a British vehicle truly upset when he or she wanted to do their own service, the range of threads and sizes simply boggle the mind. First we have Whitworth introduced by Sir John Whitworth in 1841 when the demand for high tolerance machinery production was starting to grow with the success if the British Industrial Revolution. It total he developed no less than four separate ranges of thread: British Standard Fine (BSF) British Standard Whitworth (BSW) British Standard Pipe (BSP) with a sister thread in that same bracket called (BSPT) The tapered version for high pressure use. All of these can be found on most British vehicles pre or post war.

Not to be out done we have another thread that you will find in your classic car called (BA) short for British Association. You will find these fixtures on the electrical equipment. The most common is known as 2 BA. That's the nut that slips out of your fingers while trying to connect with a BA bolt under the dash, and is never seen again. Thank goodness after the close of the 1960's some degree of sanity prevailed within the British Motor Industry and they, over a given period of time adopted a unified, interchangeable system that almost matched to the US thread standards. So today your wrench should fit most of the post war British cars after the 1960's and if you are really lucky some that were made before that date. Geoff Wheatley Geoff Wheatley
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