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Rally of the Tests 2002

Well, we didn't finish the rally in the Jowett but we had a lot of fun.  It was a tremendous event and really pretty tough in terms of hours driving and navigating.
 Picture courtesy of
At the end of the fist day after some 13 hours on the road and 300 miles we were 47 out of 83 which we were quite pleased about given that the brakes required serious pumping for most of the time and we had no reverse. we retired the Jowett mid Saturday afternoon when after bleeding the brakes twice I was reduced to handbrake only with the prospect of charging round the peak district in the dark.  The brake problem was caused by the master cylinder.  Dennis Sparrow is still looking into it.  He replaced all the wheel cylinders and the master cylinder piston and seals .    When he took the car for its MOT they appeared to be working very well but on my way back to Yorkshire prior to the rally I noticed that they appeared to have faded though I had hardly had need to use them.  Geoff McAuley came over and after he had readjusted the master cylinder I went on a 20 mile drive when they seemed much better. We bled the system and didn't notice any problems. anyway the best guess at the moment is that the seals are not compatible with the piston.  Its a sod when I went to a lot of trouble to get the brakes into tip top condition for the rally.  as for the gearbox! .... this was built from two that I supplied using new bearings and seals.  It jumped out of reverse from the moment we put it back into the car.  Dennis had a look at it and removed the side plate.  The problem seems to be with the forks and he made some adjustments and did some work on the forks themselves.  When I collected the car from him at the end of October it was working  but as soon as I put the gearbox under some pressure in reverse, it jumped out of gear.  Hey  ho.
One thing I must say about my Jupiter  now is that the handling and road holding have been transformed with the fitting of new bushes and the adjustable spax shocks. Even the driver of a following Lotus Elite was very complimentary.
At the moment the engine is being removed once again so that we can send the gearbox back to Dennis. I am beginning to wonder if the gearbox is the Jupiter's Achilles heal.
I don't know how the 'Tests' compares with the 'Marathon' but I can certainly recommend it. Fabulous scenery, excellent marshalling and some tests that weren't for off forest stages.
I'm sending a note to Noel Stokoe who came to see us off and will pass you a copy
All the best

Picture courtesy of

Rally of the Tests 2001

The trials of rally preparation.


A year last May I first heard that there was to be a rally aimed at recreating the challenges and atmosphere of the RAC Rally as it was in the 1950ties before the advent of forest stages.  ‘The Rally of the Tests’ a challenging three day event limited to 100 entries was the result.  My entry was accepted in June and the event was due to start on the last day of November.  Plenty of time for preparation you may think, but the gremlins were at work.


First a core plug blew out and the replacement didn’t stay in for more than a few miles..  I was left wondering whether the engine might have been damaged.  By now a month had passed.  The offending cylinder head was again removed and dispatched for machining. By August the car was mobile again but there were more problems to come!.  The garage that had happily issued an MOT certificate last year decided that there was too much play in the steering despite only 200 road miles since last year.  With the rally in mind I decided to bite the bullet and have the rack reconditioned. With a struggle it was removed and sent to Dennis Sparrow who concluded that it would be better to replace it.  A new one was promptly ordered from Jowett Car Spares.  At this stage Royal Mail decided to play hide and seek with it.  After 3 weeks of waiting another rack was duly sent to Dennis.  Having seen it he promptly condemned it! So now we were still without a rack and the car, of course, remained immobile .Thankfully, Dennis was able to procure one from Peter Dixon, his ‘R1’ partner.  By now it was the beginning of November and the rally was only a month away.  The rack was duly installed.  Now, a holiday I had arranged months earlier thinking the car would be long ago ready, loomed up inconveniently.  Work proceeded in removing the bench seat and with fitting two rally seats, the speedo was moved to the navigator’s side and a removable instrument panel created where earlier had been the glove box.  I arranged for the MOT and various other minor jobs to be attended to whilst I was away.


Just two days before we were due to leave for the Blackpool start, I had my first drive in the car of any sort since the steering had been reassembled. Returning home after pressing the car a little on the local dual carriageway, I was dismayed too see clouds of smoke coming from the rear.   At this point I shouted for help and Geoff McAuley generously gave up his evening to come straight round.  The head gaskets were fine but the car was burning oil. Piston ring failure seemed the most likely culprit.  Perhaps the engine had been damaged when the core plug blew.  The conclusion was that as there had not been any earlier manifestation of the smoke we should hope the engine would hold out to the finish.  We therefore departed for Blackpool intent on keeping the mileage down with the Jupiter on a trailer!


Somehow we passed scrutineering and then we were away. We left our mark at the first test with a fine screen of smoke that a destroyer couldn’t have bettered and frequently we pulled over to let those behind grab a breath of fresh air before they were asphyxiated.  After twice reloading the engine with more smoke mixture our rally came to a sad end when we found that the three cylinders we were by then running on were not enough to clear Hardnott pass in the Lakes.  We spluttered back to the bottom, found a splendid pub for the evening and waited there for five hours to be rescued.   We were immensely disappointed by our problems especially as so much effort had gone into getting the car prepared on time and because quite a few Jupiter owners and supporters were looking forward to seeing HKU 56 taking part.


I mention last year’s troubles since they made me all the more determined to have another go this year. It has to be said that though the preparation started months ago, it has not been altogether straightforward. First the engine had to come out. That was relatively easy.  Mike Smailes then tested the balancing pipe between the two crankcase halves and then supplied and fitted new pistons and liners.  There was a little scarring on the old pistons but not what you would have expected from the consumption of oil. When the engine was replaced  the smoke problem had not been cured.  By now Mike and Geoff were stroking their chins like a couple of consultant surgeons.  Thanks to Geoff living near by, he identified the problem: the small gasket beneath the oil filter where the two parts of the crankcase join, had failed .  Oil, on its journey from the pump in the sump to the galleries of the engine was diverting back into the top of the timing case and was being sucked into the breather tube located in the oil filler pipe on the front of the timing case.  No wonder we oiled up the plugs so fast!


We fitted another gearbox that looked less worn than the original incumbent when we replaced the engine This was to try and eliminate the problem of the box jumping out of third. Sadly, it has proved worse than the original in this respect.  Thanks to Mike Smailes again, the ‘original box’ has now been rebuilt by Billingham Transmissions using the best parts from yet another box with new bearings and seals. Removing and refitting a Jupiter gearbox with the engine in situ, as doubtless old hands will know all too well, is a task that can tax the patience of a saint. It merits just four lines in the instruction manual. We took four hours to fiddle the box out and some more to refit the reconditioned one. Mike on the end of the phone, came once more to the rescue when we were feeling beaten and our arms were ready to drop off.


Our preparations continue.  A photocopy of the speedo now occupies the place where once was the real thing. I think I prefer the photocopy since I can’t say it isn’t working.  The dashboard is currently off and both the primary instruments are back with the gentleman who reconditioned them.  the speedo jammed at 60 mph returning from Cheltenham and the rev counter doesn’t want to know below 3,500 rpm and then only after a severe tap.


Tomorrow I am driving the car to London where Dennis Sparrow will be checking over the suspension and giving the steering a final once over. Then we only have to sort out the leaks….Only two months to go.


Howard Bryan



PS  this year’s event starts in Scarborough and heads north via the North Yorks Moors and thence across to Alston and to the first night’s halt in the Lakes.  Next day its down to the Peak District and another overnight and then finally on to the finish in Bristol.   Dates 8-10 November.

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