I AM TRYING to do a quite simple thing. I bought some ‘Notek’ blue spot driving lights at last year’s Bendigo Swap Meet. Or was it the year before? They will be a good period match for the 1949 Light 15 Citroen.
They came almost complete and in very good condition. Nice corrugated lenses, chrome backing. A few wiring repairs and they seemed ready to go.
I found some classy looking suitable brass brackets at the Ballarat swap meet, cleaned them up with the wire wheel and gave them a squirt with black matt paint. Look a treat.
Next was a rummage through the old switches collection, selecting an ancient chrome short throw toggle example, then adding a period looking dash light for reminding me when they are on, a bent piece of old gal flashing as a bracket – so as not to drill any more ugly holes in the glorious walnut original dashboard – and Bob’s your mother’s brother.
Now for what I assumed was the easy part. One light mount has the nut on the bracket bolt, the other one does not. The bracket bolts are unique to these lights, with an inverse dome to fit the light base and slotted to stop them spinning when being tightened. Like most of you reading this magazine I have a massive treasure trove of stale mixed nuts so with a relaxed attitude and the cricket on the radio, I start the sifting and sorting to find a match.
After going twice through the entire box, and then the second nut hoard, I discover that nowhere in my probably thousands of odd nuts do I find a match. Not one. Not amused.
So what weird thread is this thing? The lights are Notek brand – English. 1950s. About 25mm across the flats, about 15mm across the thread.
Clearly not metric – although for a French car. “Notek” English lights were only an option for the Slough UK assembled English-market cars. Therefore, my dear Sherlock, they might be British Standard Fine ‘BSF’ or BSW, British Standard Whitworth.
Off to the bolt specialist, located on an industrial estate only half an hour away.
Parked the car, polished my one good bolt complete with nut and wandered in to greet the ever helpful storeman behind the counter. Now I used to be a storeman myself.
For a gap year at uni I was very happily entombed in my basement lair, keeping boxes neat and offices supplied for a national car rental chain whose name rhymes with Hertz. I have an affinity with people in storerooms.
We all like to think we are capable of being amusing, but I was not prepared for the mirth that greeted my presentation of said nut and bolt to the specialist’s counter.
It was as if I was rehearsing for the International Comedy Festival.
“Where the hell did this come from?” followed by, “I’ve been here 15 years and never seen one in all that time….” . And then the killer line – “You might get one off the internet…” And so on.
He even called all his mates from out the back and they all stood around and marvelled at my little sacrificial offering.
I felt very special. My host excavated the thread gauge from the back of the bottom drawer, measured the threads per inch [yes, inch] and then proudly and theatrically announced it was definitively BSF.
So back home, onto the inter web, a few critical keystrokes and ‘shazam’ there we were with the minimum allowed order for 5 BSF 5/8 nuts mild steel for a couple of bucks plus ten times that for postage from the UK.
Now I have no doubt that I could have spent the afternoon ringing any number of Australian suppliers of nuts, bolts, English car parts and specialist engineering suppliers. But shocking as this is, I was not inclined to waste more time – nor suffer the ridicule that my request would generate – trying to buy one nut.
So now having endured the weeks it took for my ridiculous cargo to arrive, I can solder the wires between the switch and the dash light, insert a fuse and assemble my brackets, my lights – and my one gloriously expensive well- travelled imported nut – to grace the front bumper of the car.