Charles Holford reports:
Nippys are owned by a great variety individuals who have differing views on the importance of originality. Some are enthusiasts for it and will go to great lengths to find original components and materials. Others are happy to modify their cars for a variety of reasons, often to improve safety and drivability. Let it be said there is room for all on this matter but as for myself if there is an area of my car that may easily be put back to, or close to, its original state when it is known I tend to do so.
The boot lid retaining straps on my 1935 Nippy are made of 3/4 inch modern Nylon webbing
one on each side and clearly not as it left the factory. Nylon was not invented until 1940. I decided they should be replaced with a strap as close to original as possible and in the correct position.
How to proceed? A number of questions need to be answered (and I would like you help in answering them, dear Archive readers) before doing the job. How many straps should there be? One or two? Apparently some cars have only one but most have two. What is the correct method of fixation to the car? Where exactly should they be fixed to the boot lid and to the boot lid aperture? What material was used and of what width and length?
Let us try and answer these questions in turn:
How many straps, one or two?
I understand there is a 1936 car COJ844 with only one strap of which an owner has reproduced the layout but perhaps this is unusual and may, or not be correct. Why? A single strap guarantees distortion of the boot lid whose frame does not have formal wood joints but is held together with angle brackets. The unstrapped side would likely sag before too long. I find it hard to believe Austin would have sent out cars with this foreseeable defect? It may be that they did have one strap early on in production and then changed to two straps. I have had the pleasure of owning three Nippys since 1964 and all have had straps, one on each side.
How and where are they fixed to the car?
Let us consider the boot lid end of the strap first. Chris Gould’s car has small steel plates which are screwed to the inner aspect of the vertical boot lid wood lid rail 7 inches below the top of the boot lid. He believes the plates are correct and were used to fix the strap ends. They are 1 ½ inches long and 5/8th wide with two countersunk holes 7/8th inch apart made from flat steel plate about 20 gauge (1.2mm) thick with rounded ends. I have looked at my boot lid and sure enough there are two screw holes 7/8th inch apart just below the right angle bracket that holds the top and side wood of the boot lid, about 4 ½ from the top edge of the boot lid. This is a little different from Chris’s car but these plates were hand fitted so some variation in the exact position of the plate is possible.
The inner end of the strap is fixed to the boot aperture on each side I am told near to where there is a 2 inch wide steel bracket that fixes the side wood of the aperture to the body but just how the strap is fixed at this point was unknown to me. Does it go between the bracket and the wood? The screw holes in the bracket are too far apart for both to go through the strap so fixation would be poor. I decided to have another look at my car and further inspection revealed two old screw holes just below the two inch wide bracket already mentioned, one at 15 inches from the top of the boot aperture and the other at 15 and 7/8ths. I have little doubt therefore that the same metal plates were used at this end of the strap as the boot lid end.
How long were the straps and how wide?
Somewhere I have heard of a length of 18 inches from the aperture to the boot lid fixings but is this the figure correct? I have no data on this. How wide was the strap? I am only able to offer a suggestion as I have no data (I need your help please) but if the fixing plates are 1 ½ inches long and the screw holes are 7/8th inch apart it could indicate that the webbing was 1 inch wide or more, say 1 ¼ inches to be sure that the screws penetrated the webbing and fixed it properly but as I say I have no evidence either way.
What was the material used?
I am not an expert on fabrics or webbing. Some of my comments relate to hood fabrics as well as webbing and may lead to a future discussion about hood materials on Nippys. Common sense tells us we may rule out Nylon, Acrylic and Polypropylene because they were only invented after 1935 and not commercially available until the 1940s or beyond. Rexine and PVC were available from the 1920s but were not suitable for webbing. In many cases it is almost impossible to say when certain fabrics and weaves were invented as their production gradually evolved so there is no definite date. In addition looms became more complex and sophisticated allowing patterns such as “herring bone” and “figure of eight” designs and many more to improve strength and appearance. An example of this evolution is seen with Canvas or Duck which was originally made of Hemp and/or Flax. Later is was made predominantly from cotton and it still is so today but often synthetic yarns have been added. The difference between Canvas and Duck lies only in the density of the weave and the size of the threads used. Basically Duck is a finer Canvas. Single Duck fabric is not waterproof without the addition of a waterproofing agent. Double Duck is two layers of fine cotton canvas with a waterproof layer sandwiched between them. I believe the waterproof material changed over time. (I need help on when Double Duck was first developed and what the various waterproofing materials were).
Mohair fabric has also undergone fundamental change which may cause confusion. For centuries Mohair fabric was silk-like and made from the wool of the Angora goat. It was highly prized and expensive. I am unable to find any reference to true Mohair being used for webbing or for that matter as hood material in the period before or after The Great War. The term “Mohair Hooding” or “Mohair Hood Material” is a misnomer for a Denim-like Canvas or Duck according to a Wikipedia entry I have found. If this is correct true Mohair wool fabric was not used for car hoods. This is news to me!
“Mohair” as used for cars I understand has no animal wool in it at all and was made initially of cotton fibre canvas (Duck) treated with an acrylic solution to proof it. Today’s “Mohair” fabric is made from acrylic fibre and is widely used as hood material on modern cars.
It seems unlikely that real wool Mohair was used for these Nippy straps (or for hoods for that matter). It is too soft and too expensive. So what is left? Webbing made of Hemp, Jute or Cotton as far as I know. Hemp is a coarse fibre used mostly for rope and carpets. Jute is less coarse and may have been used but cotton (Duck) webbing I believe would have been readily available and looked good. It was cheap and had a smooth finish compared to Hemp or Jute but I must reiterate I have no evidence to support this supposition. Lastly I am always open to education.
Paul Cuthill adds: