It looked like a car. A car in need of care and attention, for sure. But a complete vehicle nevertheless.
Now the work has started to take it apart, I have begun to understand that I have acquired, not a vehicle, but a delicate filigree of rust and distressed steel. A lump of unresponsive corrosion, some shreds and snippets of leather, a few flakes of paint and a mummified rat concealed behind the dashboard.
It was holding itself together just long enough for me to raise my hand, momentarily, at the auction. To reach the safety of the garage and the gentle dismantling hands of the mechanics and technicians.
Now the illusion is shattered. The shell is as delicate as lace. In places, rust has bloated the economical curves into a layered, puffed, choux. In others, it edges the spaces where panels once joined. It provides a jaunty orange contrast as it corrodes away the denim blue paintwork. The tail lights rest gently on a bed of crumbling ochre, secured in position more with faith than any of the remaining engineering. The chassis is less a support than an indication of where the engine ought to sit. Miraculously, it hasn’t actually dropped out, but I struggle to see how that is possible.
There is much teeth sucking in the work shop. A little gentle tutting. But they don’t look as panicked as I feel they ought to. Despite the fact that this is a car which is more of a sketch than a potential working model. It has to get worse, they say, before it gets better.
Her engine is out, ready to go to Cosworth to be rebored then on to get new pistons from France.
The rust will be excised from the stripped out shell and cut back to the remaining solid sections. Then they have steel, and welding torches. They weld in supports in so she won’t disintegrate at the blasters. Work is commencing on fitting a new bonnet.
Soon there will be something sound that can be built on – a clean core that can take the new transmission, will not disintegrate at the first suggestion of torque and which will take the power of the rebuilt engine.
That’s another journey – but we’ve made a start.
Photography by GR Automotive
Restoration by Tennyson James
by James Cartwright at 21 Sep 2018, 00:00 AM