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83. Rewiring

Granddad's Bosch magneto mounted on a piece of propeller and still capable of making good sparks.

Granddad’s Bosch magneto mounted on a piece of propeller and still capable of making good sparks.

For the last twenty years, we’ve been able to go to the Bosch magneto Granddad acquired from the French pilots stationed on Thasos and spin the gearwheel to obtain a spark. It’s been a sort of talisman for the project, in a way – the spark that’s kept the idea current.

And now we can’t.

But this is a good thing, because it’s gone to the magneto hospital, where the head surgeon is Tony Stairs, who came with an unequivocal recommendation from Jean Munn, Chief Engineer at the Shuttleworth Collection. Jean said ‘I wouldn’t go to anyone else.’ What more can you say?

In the dark and in pouring rain, we were directed around the back of a semi in north London to Tony’s garden shed, which has magnetos of all sorts floor to ceiling; many vintage and veteran cars and motorbikes, but aircraft too – including a DC3 Dakota. He took out a screwdriver and started to dismantle it in front of our eyes, and we were relieved – VERY relieved! – that he seemed to be impressed that it didn’t seem to have been messed about too much. His main fear was that somebody in its past had bodged the maintenance on it, but apart from the fact that the casing with the contacts in it had been reversed for some reason, rendering the timing inaccurate, he could find little immediately to criticise, and Rick and I heaved a sigh of relief.

We’ve left it with Tony to look at when he can, and we’ve returned with an empty stand to put on the mantelpiece.

...and there it was, gone!

…and there it was, gone!


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