Friday, April 20, 2007

The continuing story of Swallow Doretti – STT 24

It didn’t take me very long to realise that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew with this endeavour. I’ve always tinkered with cars (old ones – new ones are best left to robots and computers) and had got my TR4 back on the road after buying it with a seized engine, so thought, ‘what the heck? It’s not all that bad… hmm’
First thing to do was power wash the whole thing to try and get rid of the dog poo smell. It didn’t work; the bloody thing seemed to be ingrained into the metal. I tried to leave most of the car outside on nice days, just to air it. Even took the partially stripped chassis to Singleton Park in Swansea where they have a Classic Car Show in May. It brought many enquiring people to its side, mostly asking what the smell was…

With the car dismantled and the engine sent off to be stripped down and examined by a professional -- I know my limits-- I began to do what I could in my single garage. The chassis was in very good condition, due to the aforementioned chrome-molybdenum steel which doesn’t rust. Superficial dirt and detritus was wire-brushed off and soon bright metal showed underneath. This was rust-proofed (just in case) and then the chassis was painted with black Hammerite (great stuff). The chassis out-riggers were mild steel and they had to be cut off and new ones made up and welded on. I treated myself to a MIG welder and found out the hard way never to weld lying down with the weld seam dropping bits of red hot metal down your neck. The inner body shell was also mild steel and so were the floors which had rotted away completely. Fortunately enough, TR2 floors were very similar in shape and were available as new parts. Two were ordered and fitted, with some adjustments made. Other pieces were cut back to sound metal and new panels and pieces were let in. Steering was TR2 so all those parts were renewed as was suspension. The petrol tank was mild steel and was like a sieve, however it was used as a template and I had an engineering company make me a new one in stainless steel, you can see my old Jack Russell guarding it in one of the photos (gone now btw, great dog he was). Ohh! The red car on the cover of the magazine near the tank is… yes, a Doretti.

The doors were pretty sound, but the skins were in bad shape, so I chiselled them off and once again used them as templates for new ones. They were made in mild steel, even though all other outer panels were aluminium, because of the possibility of them taking knocks during their lifetime, aluminium although being light and rust-proof is very easy to dent. Ahh, I said rust-proof, well actually is does rust but in its own way. I think perhaps it’s some kind of oxidisation, or whatever the term is, because where the panels fitted to the mild steel body there was a weakening and even holing of the metal. I was told this is due to some sort of electric charge that happens between the two metals; perhaps it’s true, too technical for me. Where necessary this was patched and strengthened by a professional aluminium welder, again something that a specialist needed to do.

At last the car began to take shape. The mild steel inner body had been bead-blasted and primed, pieces added and primed and finally offered up to the chassis and it all fitted very well indeed.
The inner bodywork I painted myself in my garage as much of it wouldn’t be seen anyway. Then the outer skin went on. Once again it went together much better than I imagined. By now I had received the re-built engine (crank reground, new bearings, four new piston liners, four new pistons, new valves, head skimmed etc etc) so I had fitted it in place before putting the body on, however the body slotted over with no problem. It was only later that I realised the engine couldn’t stay in situ because the bloody engine bay was going to be sprayed with the rest of the car… everyone say d’oh!

And so STT 24 began looking like a car again, petrol tank went in, I started trying to find a source for a new windscreen (old one was cracked) and took the seats to an old guy in Swansea who did car re-upholstery, also took him the old hood which was so moth-eaten it had begun to look worse than my bank balance…
Next instalment will be added sometime soon. How will the re-spray turn out? Where will I get a wiring loom from? How the hell am I going to get the engine back into the engine bay without a crane? Why does my bank manager want to see me?

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