Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ignition system

The Ricciardi has a good old Bosch distributor, points and coil system. When in good order they work well (although arguably the advance curve isn't ideal for modern fuels), but this one shows every sign of having been with the engine since 1970, and could do with some TLC.

It's probably not too bad, since the idle at least is fairly regular, but there is definitely some slop in the bearings, which will likely mean that the advance and dwell are not even across the cylinders, and possibly that the curve is incorrect as well. I pulled the rotor out for a quick look, and in addition to being very dirty it's looking pretty worn as well, as is the cap.

All round it looks like time for either a replacement or a rebuild. A bit of investigation showed that it's possible to get rebuilt distributors, and for a little more Alfaholics in the UK sell a rebuilt one with an ignition curve optimised for modern fuels. It's also possible to get a unit with a breakerless module to replace the points. Sounds good in theory, but Australia has fuel with higher octane than is commonly available in the UK, so I'm not convinced that the Alfaholics advance curve will be ideal.

Further research uncovered a firm in the Netherlands called 123Ignition who specialise in electronic advance systems incorporated into a standard-looking distributor. They have a drop-in replacement for the standard Alfa distributor, and it comes with the factory standard curves for each of the Alfa engine models, plus some of the more common after-market curves for modified engines, all selectable by a switch underneath the distributor body. It also provides spark balancing and a few other useful features. Sounds ideal, and I was leaning towards getting one until I saw that 123Ignition also make a completely "soft" version of the same product that can be programmed via a USB connection with any advance curve you like. This was quite intriguing, since it means you could start with a standard curve, and then optimise to the particular engine and usage pattern, and also easily change the curve to account for modifications. It also offers a rev limiter, and can be programmed with two different curves, switchable from the dashboard. The clincher was that it actually appears to be easier to change between curves on the "soft" version, since you can leave the distributor in the car and just plug a USB cable in. The "hard wired" version has to be removed from the car to access the switch that changes curves. Of course, I wasn't at all influenced by the idea of being able to program ignition curves on my laptop, or watch real time graphs of what the engine is doing. Really...

Despite it being Christmas holidays, and despite me currently being on an island in Bass straight which is only accessible by aircraft three times a week, and boat once a fortnight, I have been able to contact a distributor of the product, confirm which model should fit my car, and place an order. Ah, the magic of the internet. The reseller in question is Leen APK in the Netherlands, who seem to have a good reputation both for service and for understanding the product, and won my business by politely answering all my emailed questions within a few hours of the asking.

In the meantime I've confirmed that I've got copies of all the Alfa advance curves I'm likely to need. The plan will be to start with the standard Bosch curve for the 1750, and then experiment to see what best suits this engine.

Really looking forward to this!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Now that's more like it!

Wow. Suddenly it's all coming together.

Yesterday I adjusted the clutch (remembered to take a torch so I could see what I was doing this time). Big improvement in driveability - clutch pedal doesn't take up so much space, and the takeup in the throw is much less. Could probably go another few mm, but will leave it for the moment.

I also spent ages fiddling about trying to measure the wheel alignment. Camber was no problem - improvised straight edge plus tiltometer on my old iPhone. Castor was hard - couldn't get sufficient access to do it by distance measurements, so in the end I balanced the iPhone on top of the uprights and checked the readings. I couldn't get consistent numbers, but the trend seemed to suggest that there is a fair amount of castor, and that just possibly there's more castor on the right than the left. Toe I needed an assistant for, but to the naked eye it looks like there's some toe out at the front. Need a proper alignment to check all these things.

The real improvement came, however, from checking the tyre pressures. What a doofus - when I put the tyres on three weeks ago, I mislaid my gauge, and therefore relied on a service station gauge to set the pressures. Finally found my gauge yesterday, and it turns out they were all about 5 psi under what I thought they were. Set them all to 32 psi and the car was transformed.

Last night I took another run up to Kinglake, although this time we went the other way - up via Hurstbridge and St Andrews, back through Whittlesea. With the increased tyre pressures the steering came to life - I could feel everything the car was doing, and it turned in beautifully. The suspension is really working well now. You can feel small bumps, but they don't unsettle the car. Even big ones aren't too bad now that the car doesn't bottom out.

With a passenger in the car it became obvious how much quieter it is with the new diff - we could have a conversation at 100kph, which previously was almost impossible. Hugh found a piece of spider gear in the sump of the old unit, so it was definitely time for a change!

Going up the Diamond Creek road was interesting - we were being harried by a group of big bikes that would have liked to get past. I tried to let them by before the really twisty section, but only half of them made it. After that there was nothing for it but to push on.

The road is very narrow (with marker posts right at the edge of the bitumen), and not a good road for driving fast on if you don't know it, so I left some margin, but the car was really good and very smooth through the corners. A lot of the bends are "point and squirt" because the posts stop you from clipping the apex, and the car was fantastic braking hard for those and then punching out again in second or third. On the tighter ones the bikes couldn't stay with us because they couldn't get enough lean, but they were much quicker through the fast corners.

There was one occasion when I realised the corner was tighter than I'd thought, and stayed a fraction later on the brake to scrub speed. There was the slightest of chirps from the inside rear as we turned in, and the car went round as though on rails.

Once we got past Kinglake, the car was awesome on the fast sweepers. It felt very sure footed, and again was telling me what it was doing through the wheel and the seat. A wonderful feeling.

There are still things to do. There are some slight clunks from the front when the suspension goes into droop at slow speed - lower wishbone bushes would be my guess; the car is still slightly inconsistent right to left; the back still doesn't feel as planted as it could - trunnion bushes maybe?; and I'm going to replace the thermostat today and see if the temperature becomes more consistent.

However the Ricciardi is now approaching what it should be, and it can be used with confidence as a fast road car.

Big, big "thank you" and shout out to Hugh and the guys at Monza Motors - they've done a sterling job sorting the car over the last few weeks, and putting up with innumerable calls from the owner with questions and requests. It's been a great effort, and it's reflected in just how good the car now is (now, about that speedo cable...).

Monday, December 20, 2010

A cold gray day...

Today was the first day of my summer holidays, and the designated activities were to finish modifying my Logitech gaming pedals, adjust the throw of the clutch on the Ricciardi, and take the Ricciardi for a decent thrash on a twisty road. Well, two out of three isn't bad...

First up was to get parts for the Logitech pedals (one $5 pair of thongs, as a source of foam rubber). Next was the clutch. However, unpacking my tool box at the storage place I realised I'd forgotten the torch. The light isn't the best there, and lying upside down in the footwell I couldn't see well enough to measure the pushrod length. The clutch will have to wait.

The weather isn't the best at the moment. The hour by hour forecast basically showed a chance of rain at any given time during the day, but I wanted to see what the new tyres are like in the wet.

The intention was to replay the Kinglake drive of a fortnight ago, but I wasn't sure I could remember the various turns we took to get out of Melbourne. In the end it wasn't a problem, and I managed to follow the exact route (with two short pauses - one to fish two spanners out of the footwell before they fouled a pedal, and another for a breath test. The constables thought I was mad to be driving an open top car on such a cold day).

Late morning traffic and some roadworks made the going a little slower, but I didn't really mind. The traffic eventually faded away, and once we got onto the sweeping curves I was on my own. At this point I fished out the plastic safety glasses I'd brought along to trial as makeshift goggles - I've not yet found a set of goggles that really works. At speed the car felt much better than last time I'd passed this way, but with lots of damp patches on the road I was inclined to be cautious. Grip was good, but it's still hard to feel what the car wants to do.

Up above Kinglake it got really, really cold - so cold that the water temp gauge dropped 10 degrees. I've also noticed that the car has been slow to warm up, so time to add the thermostat to the list of things to check. The rain stayed away until the run down into the town, by which time I was cold enough to want a warm fire and a meal, so I pulled in at the pub to sit the rain shower out.

Outside the Kinglake pub

The pub had a fire going (it really was that cold!), and after a hot meal at a table near the hearth I was ready to brave the elements again.

Down the hill toward Diamond Creek the car felt really good. The Falkens hung on remarkably well, and I started to get more confidence in the car. The engine was appreciating the colder air, pulling hard out of the corners and responding instantly to the throttle. The limiting factor was again the driver, in this case not fast and smooth enough with the wheel and pedals when the corners are close together. The cockpit is a fairly tight squeeze for someone my size, and all the movements have to be carefully orchestrated if I'm not to jam a leg under the wheel jumping between brake and throttle, or bang an elbow searching for extra lock. Less haste, more speed, as my old fencing master used to say... More practice required!

The rest of the drive was uneventful, although I needed the auxiliary fan once we hit the suburban traffic again. Definitely checking that thermostat before the next drive...

The safety glasses made great goggles - stayed clear in the damp air, and allow really good peripheral vision. Have to try them at night, but I might finally have found goggles that work.

Oh, and the pedal mod seemed to work - the Logitech brake feels much more like a brake with a piece of heavy foam fitted inside the spring.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shock absorbers Part 3 - (almost) all's well that ends well

After the dramas with the shocks, it was great to speak to Hugh yesterday and hear that the car was ready to be picked up.

New shock towers, newly rebuilt shocks, new rear bushes, new caster arm ball joints and bushes, new diff, new speedo and tacho cables... I was almost expecting the car to look different after all those changes!

It was a pleasant coincidence to bump into Mitch from Monza Motors on the train out to Bayswater, and we happily discussed Alfas all the way to the workshop - I'm now very keen to see his 105 race car in action.

Hugh wanted me to check the Ricciardi out, so after a quick cup of coffee to warm me up, I took it for a spin around the estate.

Ricciardi and cousins outside Monza Motors

Even a quick drive around the block, taking it easy because the engine and gearbox were cold, showed a vast improvement in the car. Small bumps and ripples no longer cause big movements from the back end, and the bump and torque steer are gone. The car still shows a slight preference for left turns over right, and a very slight nervousness when the throttle is lifted suddenly, but in general the handling, ride and road holding have been transformed. It also felt very sure-footed on the wet bitumen, and I think the formerly terrifying wet weather demons might finally be exorcised.

As a bonus, the brakes have dramatically improved, no longer giving an inconsistent pedal height. It was also very nice to have the two big gauges functioning again, and not have to be squinting down at the trip computer every time I want to check the speed.

Test drive and formalities complete, I headed for home, remembering just in time to fill the petrol tank before joining the freeway...

The longer drive confirmed my first impressions - there are still some minor eccentricities to be ironed out, but the handling is much, much better now, the best it has ever been in my ownership. I was really starting to enjoy the feel of everything working so well - and then the speedo died... again.

One of the joys and burdens of older car ownership is the constant struggle to keep all the little things working. Major mechanicals can be dealt with, and once they're correct they'll generally stay in good shape if maintained properly. Things like instruments, wiring looms and the like are a different proposition. They weren't made to last for forty years, and they can be difficult to replace with newer parts.

This particular speedo is proving very recalcitrant. It originally died several years ago, not long before I put the car in storage. Hugh determined that the cable at the speedo end had become slight rounded, and after he crimped it and refitted it everything worked again - for about two days. This time around it got a new cable, and was working beautifully until I got halfway home.

I rang Hugh (I think he's developing a twitch when he hears my voice on the 'phone), and he reckons that this time it's the drive unit in the gearbox causing the issue. Fortunately I'm not working next week, so another quick hop over to Bayswater is in order to see if we can sort it properly. At least I've got a tacho now which is the important thing, speeding fines being cheaper than engines.

The next step is to take a proper drive on a twisty road - I can't wait.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shock absorbers Part 2 - Measure twice, cut once

The mystery of the missing 40mm of shock travel (detailed yesterday in "Shock absorbers Part 1") kept bugging me last night, and I couldn't shake the thought that we had to be missing something. The car couldn't have a design flaw that was so major, and the part in question didn't really look like it had come from somewhere else.

Eventually I hit on an idea. This is hard to explain without pictures, but bear with me....

The upper spring pan and the shock tower are both part of a single bracket. The shock sits inside the spring (as in a standard 105) and pokes up into the shock tower, where it is mounted.

The bracket is attached beneath two of the chassis tubes, bolted to them by 4 bolts, with spacers to set the ride height. The initial assumption was that there was insufficient distance between the spring pan and the shock tower, and the solution was to cut the shock tower and extend it.

What has occurred to me now is that the bracket could have been intended to sit above the chassis tubes rather than below them, but without pictures or access to the car I couldn't clearly visualise whether there was room for it to sit above without fouling anything - there are some diagonal bracing tubes in that part of the chassis and I couldn't recall where they run.

This morning I rang Hugh and outlined the theory. His objection was that the springs would then be too short. This is true, but it was more plausible to me that the springs were cut too short than that the chassis has a major design problem or that the brackets randomly came from another car. Since writing the above I've been in touch with Robert Marsh, the original owner and builder of the car. Rob confirms that both bracket and springs came as-is from the factory, so it looks like this was a design problem. Rob has graciously forgiven me for the implied slur on his mechanical abilities...

Hugh confirmed that the brackets would fit above the chassis tubes, and that this would in fact account for the required 40mm, so this looks like the solution to the problem.

Unfortunately he had already cut the shock towers, and since there are also no correct-length springs handily available, it made sense to keep going rather than change tack now. The car will have stiffer springing than it ideally should (due to the shorter spring), but no more so than before, and extending the shock tower should otherwise be functionally identical to moving the bracket.

For the longer term however, I'd like to put it back the way it was intended. This will mean either modifying the brackets again, or having replacements fabricated. Apart from preferring "originality" where it works, there is a practical advantage to mounting the bracket above the chassis tubes - it makes ride height adjustments much easier, since it won't be necessary to compress the spring in order to add or remove spacers. This is no doubt part of the design, and something I should have thought of earlier. Or not - see note above. This is how the car came, and now it's working I'm inclined to leave well alone. Perhaps if/when I get to the point of changing the rear spring rate I'll look at this again, but until then I'm happy to have a rear suspension that works.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shock absorbers Part 1 - a cautionary tale

A question for the class... Hands up all those who can tell me what happens when a shock absorber is used repeatedly as a bump stop?

That's right - it breaks. However, if it is a well made, high quality shock absorber such as are built by our friends at Koni, it only breaks internally, and the rod and shell remain intact. When it comes to actual damping though, well it doesn't really work any more.

That is what the Koni representative told Hugh today about my shocks. Unbelievably, despite the sorry state of the things (and I just know my shocks are going to become one of those legendary tales told by greybeard shock techs about the Unbelievable Things People Have Done To Their Shock Absorbers), Koni can rebuild them (presumably in slow motion and to the faint strains of the "6 million dollar man" theme music). The interesting questions now are why did this happen, and how do we ensure it doesn't happen again...

On hearing the news from Koni, Hugh thoughtfully took a tape measure to the Ricciardi, and discovered an interesting factoid. Currently the rear shock travel is 40mm less than it would be in a 1750 Berlina, and 30mm less than the absolute minimum required to ensure that the suspension bottoms out on the real bump stops before the shock hits the limit of its compression range.

So, the shock was indeed acting as a bump stop, and in all likelihood the actual bump stops in the Ricciardi have never been used. Every time the car hit a big bump, or even a small bump while one or both rear wheels was already in compression, the shock bottomed out. Interestingly modern Konis have an internal rubber stop to ensure the shock doesn't get damaged if it is compressed too far, but mine are the older design and didn't have it. In any case, it's not designed to be the suspension bump stop, just a safety feature in case the unexpected happens.

This does go some way toward explaining why the transition between "cornering on rails" and "facing the wrong way in a cloud of tyre smoke" has always been very sudden, especially on a bumpy corner. There's nothing like suddenly going from normal suspension compliance to infinite roll rate to make things interesting...

It also explains why the rear shocks are shot but the fronts are fine, but we still come back to the questions of "why?" and "what next?". The car could certainly stand to come up a little in ride height, but 40mm is a fair whack. There would definitely be 105 coupes running around that are lower than that. We could go up 30mm and it would probably be ok, but wouldn't be lowerable again if required in future.

Hugh's view is that the upper spring mount/shock tower assembly is just too short, and at the moment I can't see any other explanation. The rest of the geometry is correct, the ride height isn't ridiculously low, and it's not a mounting problem, because the spring mount and shock mount are the same part.

It's just conceivable that there's supposed to be an extra part between the shock tower and the spring, but it looks correct as-is (the bottom of the tower has the spring pan built in to it). Possibly it's not an original Ricciardi part and was substituted by the first owner during the build - some of the other cars were raced very hard in the 90s, and their owners would certainly have discovered this problem had it existed. When I spoke to David Williams last week he was a bit surprised that I'd had problems with the car bottoming out, and I think that in the context he'd have mentioned this if it was a known issue.

The logical move seems to be to extend the shock tower, as Hugh suggests. That way we can run at any ride height if required. He already had the welding gear warmed up when he rang to give me the glad tidings, and it should still all be done by the weekend.

The good news is that when I get it back the car should handle not just better than it has in my time of ownership, but better than it ever has.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Suspension update & some Ricciardi history

Following the observation run last weekend it was pretty clear that work was needed on the rear suspension, so on Thursday I got up early and drove the car out to Bayswater for further investigation.

Even at urban speeds it was quite challenging to drive, with the car ready to dart in a new direction at any moment as the rear axle reacted to bumps and to acceleration and braking. Nice morning, though, and plenty of commuters seemed pleased to see something a bit different on the freeway.

With the trailing arms coming out to change the bushes, we decided to swap the diff at the same time, and agreed on a second hand 4.3 diff that Hugh has in his parts cache. The old diff has always been noisy, and when the oil was changed recently a lot of metal came out of the sump plug, so it was only a matter of time before it went. It will be interesting to see what the old diff actually was - I believe it might be a 4.55, but Hugh thinks it's a 4.3.

I also want to replace the ball joints on the front caster arms, and the speedo and tacho cables. Driving with just the trip computer as a speed check is a nerve racking exercise these days.

I wrote a post a week or so ago entitled "World's stupidest Alfa driver", and after yesterday morning it might be time to make that the new name for this blog. Leaving the car in Bayswater, I took a train into the city for work. Getting off at Melbourne Central, I put my hand in my pocket for my ticket and felt... the Ricciardi keys. Great. I briefly considered heading straight back, but couldn't really afford the time. In the end I put the keys in a taxi, and got the call 50 mins later to say they'd arrived safely.

The aim was to get the car to Phillip Island this Sunday for the last club sprint for 2010, and Hugh was fairly sure he could get everything done in time. Unfortunately the Italian car gods had other ideas, and I got a call this afternoon with the bad news - the rear shocks are stuffed, in particular the LR, which according to Hugh has no almost compression resistance at all.

While it's frustrating not to be able to take the car to the Island, I'm actually not too unhappy about the shocks, because the car really felt like it needed more bump damping at the back and this explains why. It also explains why I had so much trouble trying to set the rebound rate. I am curious about what happened to them, though. Koni reds are pretty robust, and in the Ricciardi they should get less of a workout than in a standard 105. Maybe they weren't new when they went in the car. Hugh has sent them off to be rebuilt, and I guess we'll know more when we hear what was required for the rebuild. The fronts seem to be ok, but it might be worth getting them checked properly.

The shocks should be back by the middle of next week, so the new target is to pick the car up on the following Saturday. It will be completely transformed at the back, with proper axle location, correct damping and a new diff. Can't wait...

In the meantime I've been trying to get in touch with David Williams, who was heavily involved in building the cars, and has campaigned his own Ricciardi very successfully on the track. Unfortunately he's been recovering from a serious illness, but he very kindly made time for a phone call last night.

David was very helpful in filling in some of the history of my car. I knew already that it was put together here in Melbourne by the previous owner, but I had assumed that it was one of the last cars made. David is fairly sure, though, that it is chassis number 3. He remembers welding up the chassis tubing on it just before he left Australian Technology. The chassis was then painted by other staff before shipping to Melbourne for assembly.

David was also kind enough to talk me through the basic suspension setup, as I want to check what if anything has been changed on my car. Essentially the suspension at both ends is standard 105. David did a lot of development work with various springs and sway bar setups, and discovered that the best springs were standard 105 units cut down to shorten the installed length. Shims and spacers are then used to set the desired ride height. The car seemed to work best with a standard GTV sway bar at the front, and no rear bar.

This matches the setup on my car. I had wondered because of the bottoming out whether my rear springs might be too short, but I think the rebuilt shocks should make a big difference there.

David has very kindly offered to advise me if I want to develop the car for the track. He still has his own highly developed Ricciardi, which by all accounts is a very quick track car indeed, and when it comes to getting the best out of the design he clearly knows his stuff.

I think the thing that struck me most during our conversation, though, was when David told me what his aim had been for the Ricciardi. He wanted something that approached the feel of an early sixties grand prix car and in terms of weight, power (with a developed 2 litre engine), balance and handling it's probably not that far away, with the added bonus that you can carry a passenger and the car doesn't require a rebuild after every outing.

Driving one is a rare experience, and those of us lucky enough to own one of the few Ricciardis built should be very thankful to Rick Hardy, Doug Potts and David Williams for all the effort and ingenuity they put into this wonderful machine.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

AROCA observation drive

On Sunday Kylie and I took the Ricciardi on an Alfa club observation drive. Rendezvoused at Campbellfield at 9am, and and headed off into a fairly grey and misty morning.

It was a fairly small group in the end - the Ricciardi, a very nice Guilia Super, a 156, a fwd GTV, a very rorty sounding Sud Sprint track car, and a Subaru Impreza (standing in for the owner's 105).


I was keen to see how the car felt on a longer drive, especially with the new wheels and tyres. The route was great, and the observation component was a lot of fun, although communications are very difficult in a loud open top car at speed, and we did miss a couple of the clues.

The car was fairly good to start with, although the handling issues were clearly still there. The new wheel/tyre combo does give better feel, and the car felt more planted. The engine pulled well, although I'm a little concerned that the oil pressure isn't as good as it could be.
video

I think putting the LR shock back to the previous setting did improve things - hopefully the rear shocks were set more or less at the same level of rebound. Over the course of the morning the handling did get worse though, making driving a little tricky. Initially it was just a matter of gently accelerating into left hand corners, and trailing the throttle into right handers. After a while, though, the car was twitching quite badly even on gentle gear changes. This does tend to back up my initial impression that something was wrong at the back, but it's unlikely to be the shocks - almost certainly the rear axle is moving around, in response both to engine torque and to bumps. That suggests rear trailing arm bushes. It doesn't seem to move side to side, though, so hopefully the trunnion bushes are ok.

I called up Hugh first thing yesterday and the car is booked in for Thursday to get the bushes sorted and double check the rest of the suspension now that it's had a good workout. I'll also get him to check the rear shocks and make sure they're set fully soft. The back of the car is not handling consecutive bumps all that well, suggesting the suspension is not returning from the first bump quickly enough and either rebound is too high, or spring strength or bump is too low.

Overall we traveled a bit over 200km (with one stop of about 20 minutes), which was a good long drive. Both Kylie and I were perfectly comfortable at the end of the trip, a good endorsement both for the seats and for the ride quality.

Note dead main gauges

It was really good to be involved in a club event after so many years, and to meet other enthusiastic Alfa people. Everyone was very friendly, and very positive about the Ricciardi. Looking forward to more events!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fun with electrical connections

Strictly speaking, the Ricciardi doesn't for the most part have Italian electrics, but today it rather lived up to the Italian stereotype.

It's been a long day, starting with an early morning visit to Vin Sharp to pick up the new wheels, and then to get some tyres fitted. That was all done in the Peugeot - no room in the Ricciardi for a spare set of wheels, let alone with tyres.

Vin also had a mirror that matched the broken wing mirror, so before fitting the new wheels I spent a while fitting that and getting it adjusted. It still isn't angled quite right, so there's some more fiddling to be done.

Then on with the new wheels - reasonably straightforward, just had to remember to glue the magnet for the trip computer to the LR. Probably should have done that before getting the tyres fitted, since it might affect the balance, but it is fairly light.

The GTA alloys look really, really nice (pictures to follow). I had got used to the yellow wheels, but it does look much better with aluminium, and the 195x65s look better than the old 205x60s, as well.

Time for a test drive, and that's when the electrical issues started. The engine was turning over, but gave not even a cough. Popped the bonnet, and started checking all the leads... Spark plug leads good, HT good, LT... Ah! The low tension lead was disconnected from the coil. Plugged it in, and away we went. Took me a little while to work out how it became disconnected, but eventually I realised that the bonnet support had fallen out of its clip, and then when I next lifted the bonnet the support had caught on the wire and pulled it out. Time to make that support clip a little tighter.

Next a quick stop at home to pick up my partner and some supplies, and off to a picnic with friends in Hawthorn.

We were well into the heat of the day by now, and I was glad to have the auxiliary fan working. All was going well, until I realised that the indicators were only intermittently working for left turns, although they seemed fine for right. Probably a loose earth connection somewhere - something else to check.

The next electrical issue was rather more intrusive. We were getting ready to turn right off the Chandler hwy onto Princess st when some poor bloke in an old Camry didn't notice the (admittedly very small) red sports car alongside him, and tried to merge into us. At that point things got rather exciting. I hit the brakes, and the car, which is still a bit nervous at times, darted left, requiring some corrective action. I also tapped the horn button, which was a mistake, because the horn jammed on.

The previous owner equipped the Ricciardi with a quite powerful set of air horns, and they could probably hear us in Templestowe as we proceeded around the corner, with me hammering at the horn button, my passenger blocking her ears, and the poor Camry driver deciding discretion was the better part of valour and vanishing at speed up the Chandler.

Fortunately there is a service station on that corner, and I pulled the car in there, only to have it stall before I could get it parked. Unfortunately the horn isn't connected to the ignition, so turning the car off didn't help.

With the Ricciardi blocking access to most of the pumps, I leapt out, pulled the bonnet up, and reaching far down into the nose of the car was able to pull the hot lead out of the pump for the horns, finally killing the din. Those horns really are loud.

The next issue was that I initially couldn't turn the immobiliser off to restart the car. Managed it eventually, but not sure what's going on there - it happened again later on. Possibly another earth issue.

The picnic was great - wonderful food, lovely company and some very nice rose (although as designated driver only a few sips for me, alas).

I've since sorted out the horn. That was really a mechanical issue - the horn button (Momo, so I guess it's Italian!) had somehow jammed in its housing. Disassembled and lubricated the rubbing surfaces with some baby oil (they're all plastic), reassembled, and all seems to be fine.

Naturally I couldn't reproduce the indicator issue, but I did check all the earth connections and found that the earth lead for one of the left side indicators could be tighter. Adjusted it, and we'll see whether that was the problem.

All in all an interesting day, and a reminder that there may still be more issues waiting to surface. Off on an AROCA observation drive tomorrow, so hopefully they don't pop up there (and hopefully it doesn't rain!).