Bordurian Air Force Bf 109

In the Tintin adventure of King Ottokar’s Sceptre the Bordurian Air Force are shown operating Messerschmitt Bf 109s.

Bordurian Air Force Bf 109

However, these were added in the redrawn and colourised 1947 edition. The first, black and white, edition – that was serialised weekly from August 1938 to August 1939 – shows them operating Heinkel He 118 dive bombers.

Bordurian He 118

Whilst the individual panel compositions have basically remained the same, the page composition for this sequence has been changed in going from four pages down to two:

King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1939 edition, page 95King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1939 edition, page 96King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1947 edition, page 55

King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1939 edition, page 97King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1939 edition, page 98King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1947 edition, page 56

Heinkel He 188

The photo of an He 118 from Wikipedia matches one frame of the book exactly. Hergé was known for keeping extensive scrap books and using them as reference when drawing Tintin books so it is likely that this photo ended up in his scrap book before becoming the basis for this frame.

Luftwaffe He 118

The He 118 was a prototype German dive bomber design that lost out to the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka in the mid 1930s and was never ordered by the Luftwaffe. So, whilst it would have been contemporary when Hergé was initially writing the book, the Bf 109, being the main fighter of the Luftwaffe during WWII, would have been much more recognisable to readers in 1947.

It seems that Hergé didn’t have many reference images for the He 118 as the inboard sections of the gull wings are drawn as wing root fillets in most images.

He 118 from King Ottokar's Sceptre showing gull wing rendred as a wing fillet

Which Bf 109 version is it?

The Bf 109 was probably drawn by Edgar P. Jacobs who, as part of Studios Hergé, oversaw a lot of the background detail work of post-war Tintin books. It doesn’t exactly resemble any one specific variant of the Bf 109: the nose – and specifically the chin mounted radiator – most closely resemble the Jumo engined B that saw service in the Spanish Civil War but the rounded wing tips most closely resemble the F.

Bordurian Bf 109

Other details that don’t match between versions are the fixed tail wheel (it was made retractable in the F); the lack of bracing struts for the tail plane (they were first removed for the F); the small triangular panels in front of the cockpit are shown as unglazed (first seen in later F models); and it’s shown with five exhaust stubs on each side that would indicate a V10 engine which was never used in the airframe.

It does look somewhat like the Merlin engined HA-1112 but the details of the nose and the lack of under wing radiators don’t match.

Perrin acoustic locator

The Syldavians are shown as using what looks very much like a Perrin acoustic locator to detect the approach of Tintin in his Bordurian aircraft.

Syldavian acoustic locator

This was designed by French Nobel prize winner Jean-Baptiste Perrin and the locator featured on the cover of Popular Mechanics in December 1930 – which may well have found its way into Hergé’s scrapbook.

Cover of Popular Mechanics, December 1930, showing a Perin acoustic locator

Trabi trip

Had a ride along in a very nice soft top Trabant, with 26hp it’s very similar to a 2CV (with 29hp) in that it’s all about the conservation of momentum!

Soft top Trabant

This car dates from 1983 and the soft top conversion was done in 1994. There are rails down the side of the car that were added during the conversion and you have to step over them getting in and out of the car. Numerous parts in the interior are from a Golf – including the front seats.

The engine is a two cylinder, two stroke – inline and transverse.

Trabant engine

Trabant engine

The black box at the back with the red diamond is the fuel tank, it’s gravity fed and there’s a control inside that turns a stop cock on and off for the fuel flow and a third position for reserve which opens a lower fuel pickup.  This has an additional fuel level sender behind the fuel cap.

On the left of the bock it has a crank driven fan that’s blowing under the jacket and out through the heating system. Seems that the main causes of overheating in a Trabi are under maintenance and/or over driving. back in the day K’s grandad drove his to Romania for a summer holiday with no issues.

Trabant engine

It’s not got the magic carpet ride of a 2CV but it’s sprung to ride rough surfaces and the owner was similarly loading it up into corners.  As an air cooled two pot it has a similar rasp but being in line and a two stroke it doesn’t have the whirring hum of a 2CV.  Bit hard to see but it’s got a transverse leaf spring across the two front wheels.

Engine start

With everything assembled, and with TomB engineering’s assistance, it was finally time to see if the engine would start.

The engine was checked over and all the torque settings were confirmed.  For the heads this meant an initial tightening followed by a final tightening when the manifold had been bolted on.

The engine was mounted up to a refurbished gear box I’d acquired earlier, along with a starter motor that was sold-as-seen.  With no clutch between the gearbox input splines and the engine flywheel this mean that the starter motor would be able to turn the engine over without driving the gearbox.  With the wiring loom attached to provide power to the ignition and fuel pump, the coil and HT leads in place to provide juice to the spark plugs and a battery wired up to the starter and earthed to the gearbox it was ready to go.

The initial push of the ignition button was rewarded by a click and whirr from the starter motor, so at least that was good.  The ignition is the same 123 unit fitted to Judith  so the indicator light showed that it was powered and the timing could be set.  However, the fuel pump wasn’t priming.  Once we’d worked it out it was obvious: the loom had no earth – when it’s in the car it has all sorts of earths that make their way back to the gearbox but that was missing here.  One fly lead later and the fuel pump primed and filled the carburettor.

Now we were ready to go again but the battery was now flat from turning over the engine whilst we were trying to diagnose the fuel pump’s missing earth – the starter would click but not whirr.  Running jump cables from Lotte gave us the power we needed and, after a few seconds it caught!  It ran for about 20s before starting to die and I cut the ignition.  Still, that’s pretty impressive given the choke and throttle were set at about half as a guess – some dynamic adjustment of them could probably have kept it alive.

2CV engine, gearbox and wiring loom

All in all I’m very happy with this: I’ve rebuilt an engine and it ran.

Replacing a Citroen C1 exhaust

On my way down to York in the C1 I pulled into the excellent Mainsgill Farm Shop for some provisions. As I made my way across the car park there was a rattle from the back.  A quick visual inspection revealed the cause – the exhaust hanger on the back box had snapped and it was resting on the rear beam.

C1 back box with broken hanger

Whilst it was still attached when I left home, it had presumably managed some distance before I had noticed. It wasn’t dragging, and it wasn’t leaking so I figured it would make it the rest of the way to York.

Before heading home, TomB engineering fashioned me a temporary exhaust hanger that was more than adequate to get me back.

Jury rigged C1 exhaust hanger

The culprit was pretty easy to identify – the hanger was heavily corroded and the 10 years of vibrations had caused it to neck to breaking point.

Ncked C1 exhust hanger

The following weekend I took a trip to TMS motor spares to pick up a new back box.  Getting the old back box off proved somewhat challenging – first I had to cut off what was left of the old exhaust clamp as the bolts were more rust than metal.  Then it came to separating the joint with the centre pipe.

C1 exhaust pipe joint

This did not want to budge – despite persuasion with a full tang screwdriver and a mallet.  As it had gone bad I had to cut it off. 

However, I was expecting this to be a butt joint – as on the 2CV – but, once I’d finished cutting, I realised it had been a socket joint…

C1 exhaust joint after cutting

So, at this point I knew I was now going to need a new centre section even if I didn’t want to fully admit it to myself yet –  especially given it was now Saturday afternoon meaning I wouldn’t be able to get a new pipe until Monday morning.

Still, I could still remove the old centre section in preparation.  Fortunately the two spring loaded bolts that went into the cat exit flange weren’t too badly corroded and were only a two swear rating to free up.  Being the same age as the rear section, the centre section was, unsurprisingly, similarly heavy with surface rust even if it wasn’t holed. 

However, once it was off the car and I could have a good look at it I found that the front exhaust hanger was in much the same state as the rear – heavily necked and not far off failing.

Necked C1 exhaust hanger

So it turned out to be fortunate that I’d cut through the wrong bit as it now meant that I was going to be replacing it before it failed and whilst I had everything apart anyway.  If it had failed in a few weeks time and I’d had to spend another weekend under the car swearing at the exhaust I would have blamed past me for not having done the job right in the first place.

There was still one major obstacle to overcome – getting the oxygen sensor out.

C1 exhaust section with oxygen sensor

The Book of Lies™ says “The oxygen sensors are delicate and may not work if dropped or knocked, if the power supply is disrupted, or if any cleaning materials are used on them.”  I translated that to mean: “Dose it in penetrating fluid, apply blow torch until cherry red, clamp with mole grips and beat with a hammer.”

C1 oxygen sensor removal kit

The only alteration I made to that was to substitute the mole grips for a correctly sized 22m spanner.  With the aid of +2 gloves of power and full application of my not inconsiderable body weight, after a few heat cycles it came free and I went backwards, fortunately my landing was cushioned by my not inconsiderable derrière.  A four swear rating for this job.

Reassembly was the reverse of removal – but without a blowtorch and an angle grinder.  Joking aside, everything went back together remarkably easily – the only point of note is there’s a gasket made of compressed wire wool in the joint between the cat and the centre section.

With the exhaust fitted and everything tightened up nicely I turned on the engine to check for leaks – all good!

New C1 exhaust

I was concerned that I might have damaged the oxygen sensor when spraying Super Crack Ultra on the cherry red mounting but the ECU seemed happy.

No fault codes

After a short shakedown it was still holding together so I went for a longer run to get everything fully up to temperature – there were some funky hot metal smells which would have been worrying if I hadn’t just replaced the exhaust but everything held up fine.

Job jobbed.

Blade fuse box for a 2CV

The original 2CV fuse box uses glass fuses in a plastic case glued to the firewall at the back of the engine.  As long as nothing goes wrong with it this works as well as it needs to but it’s not a solution you’d choose to keep if you were changing things.

2CV glass fuse box

As I’ve got a bare wiring loom for my Burton project, and I’ve done the hard work of identifying which connector is which, it was a relatively simple – if time consuming – task to replace each of the old glass fuse terminals with a female blade connector and cover them with an appropriately coloured piece of heat shrink.   These then fit onto the male blade terminals of a generic after market fuse box.

2CV blade fuze box

Whilst there are only five fuses in a standard 2CV fuse box I’ve gone for eight as that gives me room to add fuses for some of the additional circuits I’m going to be adding – notably an electric fuel pump.

2CV wiring loom debugging

Whilst still not objectively easy, having a stripped wiring loom makes it significantly easier to identify which connector is which.  To start with I’ll need the ignition and starter circuits so I can run the engine but having five holes in the wiring loom where the fuses are supposed to go makes figuring out what’s what more difficult than needs be.

So, after an evening probing around with a multimeter I’ve now identified both ends of all five fuses and which of those ends match up.

2CV wiring loom fuse connectors

To make my life easier I have numbered them from 1 to 5:

  1. Instruments, indicator, wipers, alternator field (16A)
  2. Stop, interior and hazard lights (16A)
  3. Near side running lights (10A)
  4. Fog light (16A)
  5. Off side running lights (10A)

Next step will to be connect these up to a blade fuse box which will make life significantly easier and allow for fusing additional circuits.

Land of the silver birch

The silver birch tree in the back garden was the tallest tree in the immediate area and it was quite nice to be able to see when coming home on the train. However, it was also right next to the house so to reduce the risk of roots getting into the foundations or branches damaging the roof it needed to be cut back.

Rear aspect of silver birch before crown reduction

Rear aspect of silver birch after crown reduction

Front aspect of silver birch before crown reduction

Front aspect of silver birch after crown reduction

It’s a bit more of a reduction than was planned but it was dictated by the growing points of the tree.  The leader has now been taken back down below the level of the rest of the crown so as it regrows it should broaden out rather than head straight upwards again.

The day before it was cut I made a point of climbing it, as a boy I knew all the routes up the tree at the bottom of our garden so I owed it to my younger self to make my way up this one.  It was fairly easy and the view from the top was well worth it.

View from the top of the silver birch before pruning

At this point I’m standing about where the new top of the tree is.