I’m writing this post a little bit late… as our flat battery problem happened beginning of February! We’ve been travelling quite a while since then, and very busy with our work when in Madrid, so I couldn’t write this post earlier. My apologies for that!
So, let’s go to business! The battery…. Yes, this infamous Banner standard battery equipped in our Morgan 3-Wheelers… Why “infamous”? Because we are too many complaining about this battery that our little rockets equip as a standard.
The exact model is the Banner Starting Bull 530 30. It looks nice, with a red angry bull charging out of a yellow flame-looking explosive background. But don’t get fooled by its looks… It’s famous for getting flat without any previous warning. At random. Any moment, any place. Some get flat after few months, and others last for years. In our case it lasted two years, clearly too short for an average quality battery. So, it’s not average quality, but poor. At least from our experience. Therefore, driving the car with this battery onboard is a little bit like playing the Russian Roulette. It’s clearly one of those weak points you must get rid of as soon as possible.
It’s true that the 3-Wheeler is not a car that you use daily, therefore using a battery conditioner is always a good idea if you don’t plan to start and run the little rocket at least every two or three weeks. But here in Madrid it doesn’t rain that much, and, despite it can be very cold in winter, we drive the Morgan every two weeks, or three weeks maximum, and long enough to make sure that the battery gets a good amount of “juice” from the rectifier.
We go down to the garage the 5th of February, to enjoy a short Saturday drive in Madrid. Four weeks since the last drive, longer than usual, and we find the voltmeter below 9V… The Morgan doesn’t even try to start.
For a very short time, we consider reviving this Banner battery. I look on the internet to buy a portable jump starter, but this idea doesn’t convince me much. Because the S&S engine is not precisely a quick-starting motor. And most of the portable jump starters won’t give enough seconds of full amperage. They may not have “enough juice” for the 7- or 10-seconds of the S&S V-Twin cold starting procedure. And we know the standard Banner is not the best battery… investing money trying to revive it will just extend the agony and will be more expensive at the end of the day.
I discuss the matter with Ana Maria, and we finally decide to change the battery. But which one is the best alternative to the original Banner model? I look into the fantastic “M3W Alternative Parts List” file. An amazing and incredibly useful file created by Ian Brett – AKA Planenut in our beloved Talk Morgan forum – in which you find the most interesting and reliable alternative parts to replace the standard ones that our M3W equips from factory. The list shows up to fifteen possible battery candidates!
I then chatted with my good friends of M3W Services asking for their personal advice. They totally convinced me to change the battery and forget about the portable jump starter. We’re definitely on the right path.
I’m looking for a direct replacement. Or at least a good battery that doesn’t imply big modifications underneath the bonnet. Because there is no perfect match to the Banner’s dimensions. And under the 3-Wheeler bonnet there is not much room for modifications. I read carefully the Banner Starting Bull 530 30 specifications, to make sure I buy a battery with the same, if not better characteristics.
The Starting Bull 530 30 has these dimensions: L187mm, W128mm and H165mm. None of the alternative batteries’ dimensions are exactly the same. An additional obstacle in our case is that we built a storage to keep the main tools’ bags under the bonnet, precisely very close to the battery, as you can see in the next image.
The one on the M3W Alternative Parts List that most attires my attention is the Magnetti Marelli MM-ion15. It has a very similar size than the Banner – slightly smaller – and it’s a high-performance lithium battery. On the top of that, it happens it’s the model that Chas uses in his “Black Adder” 3-Wheeler. And with excellent results! He tells me that the first one he put in lasted for seven years! Magnetti Marelli it will be!
I buy one on the internet. It’s not a cheap battery, been a lithium one and with very good characteristics: 264,84 € in Amazon. And we receive it a couple of days after ordering it.
I never had a car or motorcycle lithium battery before, and I’m absolutely amazed with the weight. It’s so light I even think it’s fake! It’s really astonishing. Only 1.988 grams! The original Banner weights 8 kilograms! What a huge difference!
The change of the battery is easy. The Banner is out in a few minutes, and the Magnetti Marelli is in really fast. However, I find a little problem: the metal plate that retains the battery, which is screwed via two long metal yokes, hooked at the battery base under the bonnet and with threaded upper end where the retaining plate and a couple of nuts go, don’t keep solidly enough the new battery. Because the yokes are too long, designed for the taller Banner battery, and the threads not long enough for the nuts to fix down the retaining plate.
But this little issue is easily fixed by sticking below the plate a couple of Teflon skates. The kind you stick below the feet of your furniture or the legs of your tables, to move them easy and without scratching the floor. Cheap and easy solution, for less than 5 Euros.
Now the plate makes enough downforce on the battery, so it doesn’t move at all. And another advantage is that the skates are made of Teflon, so there is not a direct touch of the metal plate over the battery, and it won’t be scratch nor damaged in any way.
Here below you have a few pictures of the final result.
After all the fixing and cabling, Im about to start the engine, still been sceptic because of the super-light new battery. Can this really give more crank amperage than the heavy Banner? The answer comes a couple of seconds just after pushing the start button! The engine fires up immediately. Wow! I’m happily surprised.
I drive to the dealer’s workshop to give them the old dead Banner battery for them to recycle it, and chat with them about the new Magnetti Marelli I just installed. Those guys are always interested and pay a lot of attention to all the modifications I make in my 3-Wheeler. It wouldn’t be the first time they ask me for advice! Now they know about a much better battery!
Since the change, we notice a real improvement, as our M3W starts faster. This new lithium battery is really an excellent choice. We hope it will last many years from now!
It’s being a while that we consider getting a couple of headrests pads. While we do long drives, using the helmets, AM always says it would be nice to have a soft pad behind our heads. So, she can rest laying the head a little backwards, with a soft contact between the helmet and the roll hoop.
Morgan Motor Company offers a set of headrests integrated in the roll hoops, but those come only with the tall roll hoops. And we don’t plan to change our standard roll hoops for taller ones. They may be safer, for sure, but we don’t like their aesthetics.
They are screwed on four metallic plates welded to the roll hoops. Nice fixation method. But they are small as the inside of the roll hoop, letting the stainless steel visible all around them.
Although they look too small for our liking, these headrests have a positive point and that is that they do not protrude much. This is an important point for us, as we use helmets for the long drives.
A too thick headrest pad may be uncomfortable if it forces our heads forward because it’s in permanent contact with the back of the helmet.
The other “standard” option are the Allon White headrest pads.
They look neat, and they would have been an excellent choice if we weren’t so perfectionists.
Their first inconvenient is that they protrude much more than we desire. 5,5 cm – or over 2 inches – is a little too much and the helmets would be rubbing almost permanently against them.
And they have a nice fixation system, consisting of three straps with a “lift-the-dot” clip. Not a bad system, but it can be improved, in our honest opinion.
A big thanks to Chas and Steve, from M3W Services, for the pictures they provided! Check their web page! www.m3wservices.com
And on the top of that, we have a physical obstacle in our roll hoops: the new luggage rack fixation system. You may have noticed it in the very first picture.
Those two pieces are quite big, and they are obviously incompatible with the above-mentioned headrests.
Allon White makes special headrests for roll hoops with the new luggage rack fixations. But I haven’t seen them yet. And they may still be too thick for us.
Then, we decided to take the 3-Wheeler to the same upholsterer that made our luggage set. We trust him as he has done fantastic jobs for us before. First with the stunning brand-new upholstery of our 1988 Range Rover, and later with all the amazing luggage pieces, back cushion for AM and other details for our Morgan 3-Wheeler.
As soon as he got the car in the workshop, with the luggage rack installed, he got the first brilliant idea for the headrests: they shall be made as a champagne cork. What does this mean? That the headrest body will enter inside the roll hoop, like the Morgan Motor Company ones. And shaped around the luggage rack support. But the head, so the front part where we will rest our heads, will be larger covering all the width of the roll hoop, as the Allon White ones. In the pictures below you can see the original piece made to check if the idea was feasible in an elegant way.
And yes! It could be done that way! This shape has serious advantages. The first one is that the headrest pops inside the roll hoop, as a champagne cork – as we said – so it keeps in place and can not move or rotate in any way. Then a very simple strap with a basic buckle can secure it to the roll hoop, making it so simple to put and remove!
The job was finished, using the same leather color and type as the main car’s upholstery, with the quilted stitching. Again, the leather craft work is impressive…
We can’t be happier with the result! Look how they fit perfect in the roll hoops!
They’re so easy to put and remove! And they protrude just 3 cm over the roll hoop, being comfortable to drive with our helmets.
They are perfectly shaped to the roll hoop with the luggage rack fixation piece. Fantastic job!
Last weekend I spent many hours in the garage soundproofing and sealing the 3-Wheeler’s cockpit (see Hangar works #18).
To do this, I had to dismantle some parts of the car, such as the seats, the backrest and the seat bulkhead panel. To remove the backrest, I had first to remove the boot tray, exposing the whole rear wheel area.
Taking advantage of the fact that I had access to that area, I cleaned as much as I could and checked that everything was in its place, and the screws, nuts and all the parts susceptible to loosening were well tightened.
And then I had a bad surprise: my fuel filter was hanging from its bracket, but totally loose. The support seemed to be broken.
Being very concerned about having a piece of the pressurized fuel system loose, I immediately checked if this was normal, chatting with my colleagues and discussing in the Talk Morgan forum later.
I received pictures and found some drawings, showing different supports and brackets. The supports holding the fuel filter have evolved with the years, so not all are the same. My car being one of the latest manufactured (December 2019), it has a new support consisting of two pieces welded together. The first piece is an Ω-shaped bracket that is screwed to the chassis structure, behind the backrest. Welded to it is the second piece, consisting of a simple O-shaped metal plate, so like a ring, with an open side with a screw, that embraces the fuel filter. The fuel filter is secured to it by tightening the screw.
Investigating further, and analyzing the pictures received, I suspected that my support was mounted already broken, because some drawings and pictures showed the two pieces welded back-to-back, and not by the internal faces of both pieces. Like shown in this drawing.
Just removing the boot tray, there is plenty of room to access the screws and bolts. All screws are M6, so using a 10 mm wrench you’re good for all screws, bolts and nuts holding the Ω-shaped bracket and the filter itself. Once all are loose and removed, I can slide the support out from the filter.
The first thing I notice is that I was right about the two pieces being welded together, but also wrong about how they were welded. They were not welded back to back, but by their internal faces.
My initial anger has turned into simple frustration when seeing that the piece has been split by its weld. At least I can say that the design is good at welding both parts by their internal faces, since when what happened to me happens – that the welding fails – the part that holds the filter remains hanging from Ω-shaped bracket, instead of falling on the drive belt next to the left shock absorber, which would have been disastrous.
Here below you have some detailed pictures my broken support. It’s a pity to see such a piece broken with just 4500 km.
If you look closely, you will see that the two pieces were welded together by just a couple of small solder spots. The vibrations of the car have broken these two small weld points, even though the bracket only holds the fuel filter, which is light, and without tension of any kind.
The good news are that this is easy to fix. A couple of drills and good quality marine degree stainless steel bolts, lock nuts and washers, and the support is back with, in my honest opinion, a more solid and much more reliable union of its two pieces. I chose to do this task using two M6 bolts and lock nuts, to be aligned with the size of the original ones used in the support. One set of bolt and nut may suffice but putting two will keep the assembly more solid so I can really forget about it.
First thing to do: drilling the two holes in the O-shaped ring that embraces the fuel filter. Once fixed to the vice, I start drilling with a small diameter drill, and increase to end up with the correct size, as usual. I better change the size of the drill as many times as necessary rather than trying to drill directly with the “big” bit and do a mess. And with this support, this is really the best way, because the support, that seems to be made of dichromate steel, is soft as cheese. Using the high-quality bits, I don’t have to do any pressure for drilling. Just with the weight of the drill, and the machine at the lowest rpm, the bit cuts through the support like a hot knife through butter.
In this case the sequence goes as follows: 2,5 mm bit, then 4 mm, and finally the 6 mm one. This is an easy and fast task.
Once the holes are done on the O-shaped metal ring, it’s time to use this piece to mark the holes to be done on the Ω-shaped bracket and repeat the drilling process.
With all drills finished, and the edges of the holes smoothed with a metal file, I check that the chosen bolts and nuts fit correctly. The M6 bolts, lock nuts and washers are made of 316 stainless steel. The bolts have a hexagonal head and are 16 mm long. I use a tooth washer for the side of the bolt’s head and standard washer with a nylon lock nut on the other side.
I tight them with a 10 mm combination wrench (box-ended side) and a 10 mm socket wrench.
All fit in and get very tight thanks to the lock nut on one side and the tooth washer on the other side. But the 16 mm long bolts are a little too long: they protrude from the side of the Ω-shaped bracket. The ideal would have been to find 13 or 12 mm bolts, but 16 mm was the shortest I found in the hardware store.
To solve this little problem of excessive length, I use my good friend the Dremel tool to cut out the excess length of the bolts.
Being careful not to damage the support, it takes me around ten minutes to cut properly the two bolts and smooth the cut surface.
Now the bolts don’t protrude over the Ω-shaped bracket, so they won’t interfere with the chassis plate where this bracket is screwed to.
The result is neat. And, in my honest opinion, a lot more solid than the support as it comes from factory.
Down in the garage, it takes me less than 10 minutes to fit the support and fuel filter back in place. I did not need to disconnect the fuel filter. It’s really easy and with a simple 10 mm open-ended wrench you have room to tight all the nuts.
You just have to be careful to put the fuel filter in the correct position, as it has a short pipe section ending with a yellow cap that, if the filter is not twisted to the best position, can touch the spring of the left shock absorber. In the picture below you can sense (because the photo perspective doesn’t allow you to see exactly how close it is) how close this pipe ends by the spring. It’s just 3 cm away! If the filter is twisted counterclockwise, this yellow cap will be in direct contact with the spring.
After closing the boot tray and put away all the tools, I go for a short drive to make sure everything works fine. The 3-Wheeler roars as it should.
There is no reason to think that all the new fuel filter supports fitted in the latest 3-Wheelers will fail as mine. And as commented before, if they fail, the design is good, so the fuel filter doesn’t fall over the drive belt. However, if you are a more preventive than reactive owner, I recommend that you take the time of reinforcing the support with at least a drill with a screw and nut, in case the welding fails like mine.
Yes, we know it: the Morgan 3-Wheeler is a noisy car. Nothing strange, as it’s a fully open cockpit powered with a huge V-Twin 2 litres engine with loud exhausts. In fact, this is precisely one of its charms. If you buy such a machine you can’t complain about the noise it makes!
However, it has some parasitic noises that are not so attractive. Once you know your 3-Wheeler, your eustachian tubes start to detect them. Here and there, a rattle, a clonking, a rubbing, a squeaking… We have a permanent battle against metallic rattles and vibrations. The difficulty to cancel these is to find the source. But once you find it, these kinds of noises are easy to solve. With a little effort and persistence, the 3-Wheeler stops sounding like a maraca.
Then there is the most famous noise: the bevel box situated just behind the seats.
For those who are not familiar with the 3-Wheeler powertrain, the bevel box is a simple gearbox that transforms the movement of the transmission shaft into the rotation of a pulley at 90º on which the transmission belt that goes to the rear wheel grips. Here below you have a nice scheme of the 3-Wheeler’s transmission (built 2014 and on), with the bevel box in the red circle.
Some describe the bevel box’s sound as a whining, others as a howl, or like a whistling… Others say they don’t hear it at all… It depends on every car, and I guess it depends on the pilot’s eardrums too. Some bevel boxes happen to be much noisier than others, without a clear technical explanation, but don’t get me wrong: the bevel box’s noise, if you can hear it driving your 3-Wheeler, is not as loud as a WWII air raid siren. It is a permanent white noise, inherent to its mechanical characteristics and design, and many are not bothered at all with it.
Some owners try to reduce it using different methods, such as an oil type / brand change or filling it to a different oil level, with more or less success. But it’s a noise that can’t be fully cancelled. Fortunately, in our 3-Wheeler it’s quite discrete; or at least we don’t notice it that much.
The most common way to reduce this bevel box noise, and many others, is to do a proper soundproofing of the cockpit using sound and vibration absorbing materials. The most popular is the Dynamat Extreme. It’s defined as “a light-weight, elastomeric, butyl and aluminum constrained-layer vibrational damper“. You can find it very easy on the Internet and acquire enough sheets to line the 3-Wheeler’s cockpit for less than 200 €. In our case, I bought three packs of what the brand calls “door kits”. Each one has four sheets of 910 x 300 mm. It showed to be more than enough!
There is another task to do once you remove all seats and panels. And it’s as important as the soundproofing; or even more in my personal opinion: to seal the cockpit.
What do we mean by sealing? The Morgan 3-Wheeler cockpit suffers from permanent ingress of dirt, and water when it rains, because there are gaps between the panels. So, the dirt and dust (and water) lifted by the rear wheel and the aerodynamics of the car sneak into the cockpit through these gaps. It’s not a major issue, because the dust getting into the cockpit is little. But little by little, it becomes a lot… To seal the larger gaps, I will use a 10 mm thick and 50 mm wide very dense neoprene self-adhesive tape. This material is more resistant than any other kind of foams, and it lasts and repels water much better. For the thinner ones, I’ll use a classic self-adhesive aluminum tape. The combination of both tapes will dramatically reduce the ingress of dirt and water into the cockpit, according to the comments in the Talk Morgan forum. We hope so!
Let’s go to work! I come down to the garage and download the 3-Wheeler from the trailer where we keep it safe. I move our SUV to make room for the Morgan between it and the trailer.
For this occasion, I have a new toy: a superb 50W LED working lamp on a telescoping tripod. If you plan to do any job in a garage as I do, I recommend you get one of those!
The first easy task is to remove the seats and mats. A small portable vacuum cleaner and some wet rags to clean the floor, and we’re ready to continue with the dismantling of the backrest and the propshaft cover.
The backrest of the 3-Wheeler is made in two pieces. To take them out, you need to remove the four M6 screws that fix the upper part from behind the upper closing panel where it lies on. And to access them you must first remove the boot tray. Easy task. All screws are accessible. First surprise: our four M6 bolts of the upper backrest are very loose. So loose that their big metallic washers move quite free. This was a source of a metallic clinking for sure! One more detected and solved (while all back in place).
The second step is to unscrew and remove the seat belt buckles from the side panels. Otherwise, it won’t be possible to take out the lower part of the backrest.
Then, the way I take out the backrest is as follows: gently, I pull forward the down part of the lower backrest while I punch downwards its upper part. The lower backrest then, little by little with every punch, tilts and slides down and forward-out. As you see in this next picture, this maneuver is to liberate the two aluminum plates screwed to the lower backrest, that are inserted behind the upper backrest.
After removing the lower backrest, again with gentle punches I push downwards the upper backrest, so it slides out as it is wedged between the rear upper closing panel and the body profile. Now the seat bulkhead panel (lower part) and the upper closing panel (upper part) separating the cockpit from the rear wheel area are totally visible.
In my car, built in December 2019, I can see that the Morgan Motor Company has already put a sound insulation kit over the seat bulkhead panel, to reduce the famous noise coming from the bevel box that is just behind it. It’s a hard layer of dark grey material. I ignore what is it, but it’s nice to see they’re improving and trying to solve known inconveniences.
At this stage, I could stop removing parts and panels, and simply put the Dynamat sheets over the floor and the visible panels. But I want to do a reinforced soundproofing and sealing with the neoprene tape as many gaps as possible. So, I keep removing parts, such as the propshaft cover, the seat bulkhead panel, and the lower side panels. Of course, cleaning as much as possible during this process is mandatory. Now the interior is ready for a deep soundproofing and sealing!
The first piece I work on is the detached seat bulkhead panel. I put Dynamat on both sides. Even over the factory sound insulation kit, because this is the panel that gets over the bevel box.
The Dynamat Extreme sheets stick to any clean surface really well. In fact, the product is so sticky that you have to be wise and very precise while putting it! You need to measure the surface and cut to shape the sheets with high precision. Using paper or carton templates is the best way to assure you don’t do a mess over the difficult surfaces. Because if you make it wrong, removing a sheet is not easy and will leave a mess of black sticky paste on the surface.
To work with these Dynamat sheets, you’ll need large scissors and gloves. Be careful with the edges! The aluminum is very thin and sharp. You can easily cut yourself if you don’t wear gloves.
The result on the seat bulkhead panel is very satisfactory. The Dynamat sheets are flexible enough to adapt to curves and edges. However, I prefer to cut some specific pieces out of them, for very precise spots of this seat bulkhead panel, as its shape is complex just where the bevel box is covered.
Now it’s time for the propshaft cover. I put two layers inside this cover, as there is enough room for it, and because this tunnel is open on both ends to the front (gearbox) and rear (bevel box) areas below the car. So, air currents carrying dirt and water can ingress this area. The Dynamat layers will reduce the noise and protect the piece against this dirt and possible water ingress.
Now I come back to the car. It’s time to cover the grooves through which dirt and water seep into the cockpit. Neoprene thick tape in hand, I start filling the big ones. In some cases, I need to put a double layer of this neoprene tape! In the following picture you can see that just behind the seat bulkhead panel, you can see the tarmac below.
From there, the dirt can ingress between the side panel and the aluminum body through a massive gap. Here below you can see I blocked this gap with the neoprene tape, sticking two layers one over the other and applying pressure to insert them there.
To fill the grooves between the edge upper closing panel and the body, I continue using the thick neoprene tape. I manage to block almost every gap around its edge. This tape is really useful and seems to be really tough. I hope it lasts for long.
After looking for every little gap, I come back to the Dynamat. Time to do the floor. It’s probably the easiest area as it’s flat and the shapes are almost rectangular. Few cuts with the scissors and the floor is done quite fast.
Only the area of the front mat on the pilot’s side takes longer, because I have put some industrial 3M Velcro strips to avoid the mat moving around in front of the pedal set. So, I have to cut small pieces of Dynamat to be fitted in between the Velcro stripes.
The last areas to be covered with Dynamat sheets are the upper closing panel and the sides. Cutting first some carton templates, the upper closing panel is relatively easy, and I use the aluminum tape to make sure the very thin grooves around it are sealed. I avoid overlapping the seat bulkhead panel, so it can be removed for maintenance without damaging any Dynamat area.
The inside of the body sides are probably the most difficult parts because they have an angle rear side, the two plates and bolts supporting the exhausts, and a chassis vertical bar at the front. I manage to make those with a single long Dynamat sheet. I first cut the sheet to the exact shape, then cut holes for the nuts, and finally stick it sliding very carefully the sheet between the front vertical chassis’ bar and the aluminum body panel. A delicate move with such sticky material!
With all soundproofing and sealing works done, I re-install all panels, backrest parts and seats. It is relatively easier than dismantling them. The whole process, working alone, took me about seven hours.
Looking at the cockpit with all back in place, you can’t notice any of these works.
Then we take the Morgan for a test drive. And we can’t be more satisfied! It really works! The car is truly more silent. This improvement is one of the best we’ve done!
If you’ve read the blog, so our previous posts, you should know already that the seating position in the 3-Wheeler is quite different from the one in a standard vehicle. And for many reasons. Not only because the seats and the steering wheel aren’t adjustable, but because you are seated really low, on the floor of the vehicle. In a standard car, the pedals are in a clearly lower plane. The 3-Wheeler looks much more like a super sports car, with the base of the pedals in the same plane than the seat and therefore than the driver’s hips.
You have just a quite simple cushion, consisting of a wooden plank base, a foam padding, and the whole elegantly upholstered with leather. No springs, no memory foam, no technology but, in our case, an electric heating pad below the leather, as we ticked the box saying “heated seats” in the options list. This is fitted between an L-shaped profile of the floor at the front, and the plate that serves as the base for the backrest at the rear.
This seat is just 8 cm high in the back and 12 cm in the front. As it lays flat on the floor of the car, its slope by this difference in height gives you the slight sensation of being fitted in a sportier way. But the reality for a tall driver is that the seat is still too flat. When I sit down, and despite having the pedals positioned as far away as possible from the seat, I have all my weight resting on my hips, on the back of the seat next to the backrest, and my knees are always bent. Therefore, my thighs do not rest on the seat, since the front, despite being 12 cm high, is still too low for me.
In my case, this causes a slight overuse pain in my right knee. This leg is the one that moves the least while driving since the right foot must be permanently on the accelerator or brake. Probably because when I change the pedal I do it with my ankle fixed on the ground, or just moving it a few centimetres, and therefore the rotation of the foot also affects the knee. The discomfort only appears after driving for a couple of hours, but it is just as uncomfortable, without being unbearable. If my thighs were laying on the seat, the knee would suffer much less with so much less weight when rotating the ankle.
I’m clearly not the only one feeling that the seat is too low at its front. Many of our friends in the Talk Morgan forum have solved this in the simplest and most efficient way: adding a wood slat below the front of the seat. The size of this wood slat, so how much it rises the front of the seat, will depend on your height and your personal preferences regarding the driving position. But having your thighs supported by the seat is clearly a much better and comfortable position.
The discussions in the forum clearly stated that this wood slat below the front of the seat improves the driving position. So, I bought one of 44 x 56 mm.
But until now, I did not have the time to work on this support, meaning that we went for our first Long Range Campaign in France without it.
During this trip with the Back Adder Team, we enjoyed a fantastic first day driving the 3-Wheelers through amazing French roads. And my pain in the knee obviously reappeared. Then, the second day, during a short stop at the Gorges de Saint-May, I saw that Chas was using the famous wood slats under his seats. I told him I was thinking to build a couple of them for our Morgan and asked him if they really make a difference. As his were not screwed nor fixed in any way to the bottom his 3-Wheeler, he simply took the one under his co-pilot seat and he lent it to me to test if I noticed a difference. I can’t be more grateful to Chas for it! Only when I sat down did I realize the enormous difference. And as soon as we started up again and were driving several kilometres, the pain in my knee disappeared as if by magic, and I felt much more comfortable behind the wheel. As Chas was driving solo, he lent me the wooden slat for the whole trip. Thank you again my dear friend! This helped me so much!
Knowing now that this solution works so well, I started the brainstorming thinking about the best way to build our wooden slats.
The first thoughts were about how to solve its few inconveniences. I found three.
The first thing I noticed when I put the wooden slat under the front of my seat is that, as the seat was not fitted anymore over the thin edge of the L-shaped steel profile at the front, it slipped forward when I moved my hips. It also slipped forward during the driving even when I wasn’t moving, probably caused by the vibrations, the braking, and the road bumps. With the seat resting over the edge of the L-shaped steel profile, it still happens, but not so notoriously. So, I need to find a way to avoid the seat moving forward.
The second thing is that the wooden slat could also move. The one I was using was not perfectly shaped to my 3-Wheeler and had no way to be fixed to the floor. Being loose, it moved sometimes with the seat. Not as much as this one, but still moved. I will see how to fix mine to avoid any movement.
The third thing is about the shape of the wooden slat: if its profile is square or rectangular, the seat rests over a thin edge of the slat.
I will have to work on mine, to make it follow the same angle than the seat with the floor, so this last one rests over a flat large surface on the slat and not a thin edge of it.
With these premises in mind, I get down to work and, after making a very simple paper template, I cut the wooden slat to get two pieces and shape them so they fit perfectly in front of each seat.
I wish I had a table saw to make the slope on the top of the wood slat. But I still don’t have that fancy tool and instead I use my jig saw and the orbital sander. The result is not bad at all, despite the basic tools I used.
Being of 44 x 56 mm section, I decide to cut them so they’re taller. This means that the front of our seats will be raised by 56 mm.
When I made the paper template, I marked the exact location of the three bolts that help to fix the floor with the L-shaped steel profile in front of the seats. With the position of these screws marked, I drill holes deep enough to allow the screws’ heads to get into the wood, so my wood slat lies totally flat over the steel profile.
I finally give the wood few varnish layers to protect it against moisture and any possible water ingress.
I was thinking about other ways these wood slats may help to improve the 3-Wheeler beyond their main purpose of lifting the front of the seats.
By simply been there and lifting the front of the seat, I see their first inherent advantage: the cable and connector for the heating seats will not be crushed anymore between the seat and the floor. Good news!
Also, under the co-pilot seat we carry the vehicle’s papers inside the black leather Morgan pocket, together with a classic yellow high visibility safety vest. With the seat lifted at its front, the room below will be high enough, so these won’t be squashed anymore under the co-pilot’s weight. Same for the yellow high visibility safety vest below the pilot’s seat. More good news.
Then I though it would be nice to put some snap buttons to this leather pocket, and then have it fixed at the bottom of the seat, so it doesn’t move around while driving, and when you lift the seat you can get the papers more comfortably. When needed, as it’s fixed by very simple snap buttons, you can easily take it with you. Plus, it’s way more elegant than just letting this pocket lie on the floor of the car.
Still thinking about the possible advantages, I remembered about the wind jackets. During our trip in France, both Ana Maria and I carried a nice wind jacket. Useful in the cold early mornings, or when the temperature drops, or when it rains.
When we were not wearing them, we rolled them and kept them under our knees, just in front of the seat. There, the jackets didn’t bother us too much while driving, but with time they started unrolling. And as being on the floor, they permanently caught dirt and dust. To solve these inconveniences, back in Madrid we ordered a couple of nylon bags 30x10x10 cm in size, perfect to keep the jackets protected from the dirt inside!
These bags are really practical, but they could still move around below our knees. But now I have a nice wood slat just there! Turning to the snap buttons again, I put three on each bag, and on the wood slat. Now the bags with our wind jackets inside will stay clean and nicely fixed in front of the seats. And again, as they’re fixed with snap buttons, we can take the bags with us anytime!
Now it’s time to deal with the problem of the seat sliding forward over the wood slat. To avoid this to happen, the solution is obvious: to put some kind of stop under the seat, so that it touches the wooden slat and does not allow it to slide forward. But considering that there will be people on the seats, so quite an amount of weight, this stop needs to be quite serious. I search inside my boxes looking for a metallic profile that would do the job, I find two fantastic steel plates with a 90º tongue. They will do a fantastic job! But before using them, I use the table swivel vise to bend them, so the angle is closer than 90º, so the tongue makes a flat contact with the wood slat. Remember the seat is not flat but has a certain slope with the wood slat at the front! Therefore, the tongue of these metallic profiles needs to be bended to reduce these 90º to the proper angle for a flat contact.
While screwing them to the base of the seats, one of the seats showed a little obstacle: the leather upholstery gets too much below the seat, so the metallic plate won’t sit flat on the base. Easy to solve. I remove some staples to access the leather layer and cut a piece of it with a cutter. Then put all back with new staples and screw the metal piece, now totally flat on the base.
I come down to the garage to double check measures and that everything goes as it should. I see that the wood slats will lay over the L-shaped profile properly, but just for half of their size. The profile is 20 mm “deep” while the wood slats are 44 mm. So, 24 mm will hang out. The L-shaped profile lies over the floor of the 3-Wheeler and has some black sealant mastic between them. In total it’s 3 mm step.
As the wood slat will be screwed to the front vertical side of the L-shaped steel profile, this may not be a real issue, but I prefer to add a 2 mm thick aluminium plate down there. Considering I will very soon line the inside with Dynamat Extreme sheets, and being these 1,7 mm thick, but these being not totally rigid, the 2 mm aluminium plate plus the 1,7 mm of the Dynamat sheet should be good enough to fill this gap.
With this last detail finished, I can go down to the garage and screw the wood slats to the L-shaped steel profiles in front of the seats. And the job would be finished. However, there still another detail that bothers me… The stop I screwed below the seats to avoid the sliding forward, are made of solid metal. And every time we’ll lift and put down the seats, and also every time the seats are going to push on the slat trying to slide forward, the metal will be hitting and rubbing over soft wood. Not a good combination for a long-term solution! The metal will scratch and finally tear apart wood from the slat.
After thinking about the best possible solution, I decide to avoid the easy way, and do a nice artisan job. I cut a piece of aluminium plate and bend it properly, so it has the right angle to sit on the wood slat.
Then with the Dremel and a lot of patience and delicacy, I carve the wood slat the shape of the aluminium plate.
After a long time with millimetric cuts with the Dremel, the aluminium pieces finally fit into the wood. I love the result! It’s very elegant and will do a fantastic job protecting the soft wood from the metal seat stops!
Now I’m finished for good. Let’s see how they fit in the 3-Wheeler! First thing to do when I’m in the garage is to drill three times – one per screw – the vertical parts of the L-shaped steel profile on the floor. I will use 4 mm diameter and 40 mm long wood screws to fix the wood slats to this profile.
With the drills done, and the wood slats in place, I use a marker to see where the screws will get in. And then I pre-drill the wood with a 3 mm bit. I do this to avoid the soft wood to crack while inserting the screws, because the screws will enter very close to the bottom side, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this pine wood cracking. After so much work and dedication to make them look beautiful, I don’t want to risk seeing them cracking because of the last screws!
Finally, I fix the wood slats. They look really nice!
The co-pilot seat with the Morgan leather pocket fixed with the snap buttons looks gorgeous!
When I put down the seats, as I supposed the metal plate screwed at the bottom of the seat lies on the aluminium bended plate inserted in the wood slat. I need to push backwards the seats, with few light punches to see them sliding to the correct position, and perfectly fitted between the frontal wood slat and back below the backrest. Excellent fitting!
Then we try to fix the nylon bag with a wind jacket inside, in the snap buttons screwed in the front face of the wood slat. Success again! They fit and get fixed perfectly. Now we can travel with the jackets protected inside the bags, fixed to the front of the seats, away from dust and dirt, and so practical you can take the bag with you!
Work done! We take the 3-Wheeler for a short drive to feel the new seats position. Both Ana Maria and I are extremely satisfied. It’s a huge comfort difference! And aesthetically we’re very satisfied with the result! I hope you like it too!