Friday, 23 April 2010

Five decades worth of bodging continues

    If your tastes do not run in the direction of motoring lost causes then you may choose to move on, for I'm about to describe my weekend to come and it's going to include a lot of oily things. Writing about cars as therapy for girl fog.
    A little over five decades ago a factory somewhere in Warwickshire produced a small car. It was sold to a couple in Devon who owned it for over thirty years before age forced them to give up motoring. At that point it nearly went for scrap, but for a lucky intervention from a mate of mine, like me one of a select band of individuals who share an interest in such cars, who spotted it and bought it. His problem was that he already had more of them than he had room for, I can just imagine his wife's reaction, so he had to find a buyer rather quickly.
    At the time I was young, geeky and gullible, so I parted with the cost of some seriously attractive wardrobe and drove away in one of the slowest cars I'm ever going to own.
   Running a quirky old car has its moments. The glacial acceleration and lacklustre braking are not the high points, but Saturday mornings on an empty B road make up for those shortcomings. If you are bored with the characterless boxes we surround ourselves with today then something that doesn't corner on rails and in which you can't just rely on bottomless acceleration to get you out of any missed gear changes is likely to put some fun back in to your motoring and a grin back on your face. 
   I ran that car for over a decade. Sometimes as my only car, other times as my spare. Then as sometimes happens to we tech workers, I lost a job and the car lost its clutch, so it had to come off the road. Since then it's gazed accusingly at me and my occasional attempts to keep it clean and rust protected have not assuaged my guilt over its abandonment.
   So late last summer, I decided to do something about it. I got it on the ramp, fixed its brakes, replaced hydraulics, gave it new ignition components and a second-hand clutch, so by November it was driveable. Fantastic! Of course, that wasn't enough to put it on the road. In the UK we have a mandatory roadworthiness test for cars over three years old called the MOT test and there was no chance my car would pass one without a bit of welding.
    Which brings me neatly to the present. This weekend I'll spend my time in the sun getting myself filthy grinding away five decades of other people's bodywork repairs including some horrific work I did myself before doing my best to replace them with something that could last another five decades. By Monday if I'm lucky all the car will need for an MOT will be a set of new tyres. At which point I'll be very happy indeed.
    I may not have the car on the road by the end of the month but I'll give it a damn good try. And who knows, if I wear the right garment from my grubby old t-shirt pile I might even go some way towards erasing my farmer's tan. Which, as I'm sure you'll appreciate, will be the icing on the cake.


  1. If you get that running I'm going to get so jealous... I'll bring up skirt sizes again ;p

    I still have a few years before I get to drive the Spit again - but yes it is an amazing feeling isn't it driving an old car... Ahhh...

    One bit of advice for the brakes. Get some braided hoses. It was one of the first things I did to mine and whilst you still need to use effort that you don't in a modern car I can stopp all 4 wheels without too much effort when I need to. Something that I could not do with the old rubber hoses.


  2. As hard as this may be for you to believe, I can actually relate to some of this, especially the comment about being young, geeky and gullible.

    I did have my car days although the idea of getting black gunk under my nails is now a dreadful thought.

    Have fun, Jenny.

    Calie xxx

  3. Let us know if you encounter anything of archaeological importance under the Isopon. I once found three plastic bags stuffed with fibreglass and most of a cereal packet in the sills of a Spit. It had Tony the Tiger on it. The cardboard, not the car.

    Cat XX

  4. Lisa in Raleigh23 April 2010 at 23:08


    Enjoy the adventure! I also share the need to use automotive repair to clear out the girl fog. The only real downside is the damage to the hands. However, I can speak from expereince that welding is an effective way to remove body hair.

    And as far from finding things during such events, I remember finding several have used (and clearly quickly put out) dobbie's in the transmission tunnel of a 1956 Chevy.


  5. Hope you're having a jolly time! -I had to do a bit of roadside bodging on Friday; v happy making when it works...

  6. Back on the sofa again after a day's fettling. Found a bit of chassis rot which is not good, but repairable. So much for a quick MOT.

    @Stace, I've considered braided hoses. But these are drums all round so it's not like the hoses are the weakest point.

    @Calie: Maybe I'm not as young as I was, it's a fair cop that I'm still geeky, does that make me gullible?

    @Cathy: My worst bodywork sin involved spray polyurethane foam sculpted to the shape of the missing panel and covered in P40 fibreglass. Passed an MOT too. No tigers in this car(not even in the tank!) but there is a 1/2 section plastic drainpipe in the rear 1/4 valance.

    @Lisa: I think the previous owners of this car were far too respectable for that. Please tell me the Chevy was matt grey, and you traveled across America racing it for pinks.

    @Dru: There's a Mini van that as far as I know still has a shim I cut from a beer can in its windscreen wiper motor. Cut, that is, on the hard shoulder of the M1 in the pouring rain about 16 years ago.

  7. What could this small car be? I'm not hot on Warwickshire car plants in the 1960's (sounds like a good subject for Mastermind), but maybe an early Mini or a Moggy Minor?

    I had a Mini in 1968 and quickly discovered that the rear subframe had a dislike for staying attached to the rest of the car. Happy memories!