Written by Jack Collins
When we arrived, the car was in the drive, top down, and from 50 ft away it didn’t look too bad. We crawled all over it and under it and were fairly pleased with the body. It really didn’t have much rust, just some surface spots on the inner rockers and only a few minor bubbles on the floor pans.
The rest of the car was totally and completely shot. It needed everything. The engine had a badly leaking rear main seal, the SU carb conversion was leaking and poorly tuned, and the shifter bushing was missing which make finding gears a real Easter egg hunt. One axle seal was leaking, the interior was worn away from carpet to seats, the top was only a suggestion against rain. It had had one cheap repaint many years ago and that was fading and peeling. Every bushing in the front and rear suspension had perished long ago. The rear springs were so used up that this rubber bumper car looked as if it had a lowering kit on it already.
On the plus side, it started up and idled ok, the brakes seemed to work ok, and it looked like it would run long enough to get it to the shop. We struck a deal with the owner and after exchanging a modest amount of cash we gathered up some of the new parts he had purchased and set off for our garage.
I drove, Brian followed, and it was an uneventful ride. Except for all the smoke. And the sputtering. And the broken ignition key that fell out onto my leg. And the dragging front brakes. And……..
A combination of poor tuning and stupid parts mixing prevented the car from revving more than 3500 rpm. By the time we got back to the garage the oil pressure was only a suggestion at idle and would climb to 30lbs if revved. I think we used up the last 15 miles that the engine had left just getting the car back to the shop.
The next day we started the teardown. The reason that all those mechanical issues were of no concern is that we are only using the body. This car is going to eventually get a modern engine, a five- or six-speed transmission, a high-end interior, and much more. We just needed the body as bones to build on.
We’ve pulled everything off the car and as we thought, the car is pretty much rust free. The passenger floor pan has a few pinholes and we’re debating whether to patch or replace. The right front wing has a little accident repair just behind the bumper, but we’ll fix that. Other than some surface rust under the pedal box, the car is not bad at all. The lack of rust made unbolting everything very easy. It only took us about three easy days, or about 30 man-hours to disassemble the car to a rolling shell. If you do the beer math, you can tell we were taking our time. And one of those days was a beer-and-hot dog day with some friends who stopped by to help. (Many thanks to those who stopped by!)
The next step, before we start body prep, fabrication, or repair, will be to get this shell stripped to bare metal. The nearest metal stripping company that can dip the whole car is over two hours away and it could take weeks to get it done. There’s also a dustless blasting outfit only 5 miles away. At this point we’re still evaluating options. In any case, we want all the old paint, undercoating, and dirt gone.
So that’s where we are going into 2017. We’ll pick up the pace when the shell gets cleaned and hopefully will make a lot of progress in the next few months. Keep watching!