Friday the 13th and it's SVA day.
I was up at 5:00am and on the road for a run-around before setting off for Yeading, West London. I filled up with petrol at the local station and did 20 miles along the main road and back through the lanes. This went OK, with nothing obviously wrong, apart from the brakes still feeling a bit spongy.
Gareth accompanied me to Yeading, on his way to Wales. All my tools, gallon of petrol, tow-rope, thermos, Sierra steering wheel etc. etc. were transported in his Porsche. I chickened out at the last minute and we took the motorway route, rather than go cross-country as planned. This turned out OK, as the roads were fairly quiet. The Dax isn't a good motorway car (in common with all Sevens, I suspect) as those speeds cause heavy buffeting from the wind coming round the side of the (hah!) windscreen. I took the opportunity to bed in the front brakes a bit by dabbing and riding the brake pedal from time to time. We left at 7:00am and were at the SVA station by 9:20, after stopping twice at services to do a general check and have a break from the wind. South Mimms services will let you in, but won't let you out until you've scraped the sump of your Dax on a speed bump :-( The first of many, I suppose.
I reported to reception with my yellow appointment form and was just told "Lane 1". I moved the Dax to lane 1 of 5 and we waited. The 5 lanes laid out on the tarmac led into a 5-lane shed which housed all the HGV test equipment. HGVs came and went and we waited. Several lorry drivers came over for a good look and a chat. One outwardly jovial but inwardly stupid driver promised me that it would fail beacuse 'the fog light isn't brighter than the brake light'. He assured me that Cortina brakes weren't up to the job and had a general 'you don't want to do it like that' attitude. Fortunately, he turned out to be full of shit.
It was at this time that I noticed a large crack and a hole in the left-hand headlamp. A stone must have gone through it on the motorway. Damn! A fail for sure, I thought.
After an hour we found out what the hold-up was. A tanker of aviation gas was coming through and they wouldn't let any other vehicles in the shed at the same time, in case it exploded when they tapped the bolts holding the tank together with their official hammers.
Eventually, my tester arrived in his white coat. I never did find out his name so he is Mr. Tester herein. He started by having a walk around the car and asked me to take the bonnet off so he could record the chassis and engine numbers. He had a good peer down the sides of the engine and a hard look at the pedal box. He held his fingers over the washer jets and asked me to operate the squirters for 5 seconds. Nothing blew off. Bonnet on, he ran his hands over any likely-looking protrusions, both inside and outside. Never did the famous 4" test ball or the 30 degree cone make an appearance. He liked the SVA bumper bars and commented that they saved him a lot of work because they exempted all of the front suspension. I did think of telling him that it would be even less effort to just give me a certificate immediately, but held my tongue instead! He thought Dax's bonnet clip covers 'Very clever'. He sat in it and punched my home-made steering wheel boss cover. He told me it would have failed if I hadn't covered up the mounting bolts and thickened the spokes with vinyl. The old Sierra wheel can now be consigned to the great scrap yard in the sky.
He seemed to be training up an old chap, who I shall call Mr. Grainger, as he resembled no-one so much as that character from "Are You Being Served?" on TV. Several times he pointed something out to Mr. G and said "You need to check that". They got out "Nigel", their device for checking windscreen and seatbelt mounting heights. No problem there, as it's all standard Dax stuff.
He asked me to drive forwards into the shed and stop at the first test station, which was the inspection pit. Mr. T and Mr. G went into the pit and I had to stay in the car. They issued instructions through a nearby loudspeaker, such as "Full left lock" or "Handbrake on". I could feel them tugging and tapping at things under the front and rear, but couldn't see what was happening. Very nerve-wracking!
Next stop was to be weighed. They measured each axle with and without me in the driver's seat. As I remember, the weights were 347Kg at the front and 358Kg at the rear, without me. That's a little over what I was expecting, but it did include a full tank of fuel, a bag of documents and manuals and a chicken sandwich forgotten down the passenger footwell. They then ran through all the electricals - horn, lights, heater, washers, wipers. No mention of the non-standard fog lamp. No mention of non 'E'-marked lights. My home-made heater was passed with just a wave of the fingers over the outlet vents. The dip beams turned out to be a little low, but he suggested I adjust them then and there, which I did until he was happy. It was at that point that I pointed out the hole in the left-hand headlamp. "Don't worry" he said, "that's a maintenance issue for you to sort out. As long as it works OK today ... ". Another certain failure point that wasn't.
Speedo calibration next. Mr. T held certain speeds with the rear wheels on a set of rollers while Mr. G operated the machine that printed out the actuals. From what I could see over his shoulder, the actual speeds were all two or three MPH less than the indicated. A pass.
Next stop forwards, the emissions test. They took measurements from both exhaust pipes at idle and at 2000rpm. "It's OK" he said.
Then brakes. First the front, then the rear wheels were driven onto the rollers. Mr. G sat in the Dax with 'the device' strapped to his foot. He had trouble pushing the brake pedal as he was rather shorter than me, with wider feet. Mr. T stood in a kiosk and operated the rollers while Mr. G took readings on a pressure gauge connected to the device. The result wouldn't be known until a computer had digested the weight and brake figures. "Daxes never fail", said Mr. T.
Then it was a short drive outside the shed to a tarmac area marked out for the mirror test. I stopped on the mark and Mr. G got in and checked that he could see the poles standing behind the car. Mr. T trotted out a microphone on a stand and took a noise reading from in front of and behind each exhaust outlet. The SVA limit is 101dB, Jadzia came in at 93dB, despite the pops and crackles at 3500rpm! You can be much louder and still pass. Mr. T was still unhappy about the brake fluid reservoir warning light. He had a bit of a bee in his bonnet about how far the fluid level could drop before the warning light come on. He thought (incorrectly) that if the level fell below the highest point of the tube connecting it to the master cylinder, then air would be sucked into the system even if the reservoir outlet was still covered. So I unscrewed the cap and we measured a 1/4 inch rise before the light came on. If the fluid falls 1/4" not even the clutch outlet (higher than either brake outlet) would be uncovered, so he was then a happy tester. The moral here is to mount the reservior as high as possible. We had a general chat about kitcars. Mr. T liked Daxes. He thought they were well-engineered and well-thought out with regards to SVA.
They said that the front brakes had been a bit weak and I explained that they were new and still bedding in. Mr. T said they would feed the numbers into the computer and if the fronts were too low to pass, I could run it round the block a few times to heat the brakes up, when they would re-test them or "just put some higher numbers down"! Very pragmatic of them! "Go have a cup of tea", I was told, "We'll be back in fifteen minutes to let you know whether the brakes will be OK". Ten minutes later, Mr. Grainger appeared and handed me my Minister's Approval Certificate. It had passed! My watch must be faulty, as it said the whole test had taken just over an hour. My nerves told me it had taken about three and a half weeks.
I had a bit more fun on the way home, taking the cross-country route and calling in on Dax in Harlow. Gary and Simon had a good look round it and pronounced it 'very nice' :-)
On the roads, I had a bit more chance to try out the performance. Several overtakes were accomplished with confidence, due to the huge mid-range acceleration. The brakes felt better with every use. Corners could be taken fast and flat and I was home all too soon.
Registration next ...