After weighing up all the options I decided to use the Polite Bodyshop in Gloucester to do the final bodywork preparation and spraying. I used them about four years ago for my GT6, which I was very pleased with, and I’ve had a fair amount of contact with Jan, the owner, over the past couple of years. Whilst their hourly rate is probably the lowest in the area Jan’s standards are high and I can trust them to do a good job without cutting any corners. As an additional incentive Jan has agreed that I can help with some of the preparation, so that will hopefully reduce the overall cost.
As expected, getting the major body components mounted back on the chassis (albeit temporarily for the move from home to the body shop) was a mare of a job. The chassis and body both having had some major welding, plus the fact that the bonnet (which itself had undergone major repairs in the past) came from a different model meant that virtually nothing lined up quite as it should. One of my bête noirs is the enormous panel gaps you see on some Heralds and Vitesses, so I expect that getting things to line up properly once the body has been painted will be a ‘challenge’.
I’ve decided to have the car painted in Royal Blue which is an original contemporary Triumph colour and just happens to be the colour of the Herald convertible I owned some 49 years ago! The upper surfaces of the car will be painted in 2K whilst the underside of the body and under the bonnet will first be painted in a coloured epoxy primer, which should give a tough and long-lasting finish.
I suspect that in common with most ‘amateur’ restorations the costs and time taken by this project have already overrun by at least 100%. As far as time is concerned part of the problem has undoubtedly been the onset of winter and the difficulty of working on bodywork in the great outdoors. Costs, however, just seem to keep on building up despite my best efforts to do as much as possible ‘on the cheap’. The point is that once you’ve decided to do a half decent job it just doesn’t make sense to put worn or knackered parts back on your pride and joy – so you end up buying new or spending money refurbishing as you go. Still, there’s no point in complaining – after all, this is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby!
One of the more enjoyable tasks I’ve undertaken in the past months has been the refurbishment and modification of the dashboard. In standard form the Herald 1200 dash is, to say the least, spartan and does a pretty poor job of keeping the driver informed about what’s doing on. So having decided to go the ‘non-standard’ route I set about adapting the dash from my donor 13/60 to my particular requirements. The addition of a Spitfire rev counter (the electronic version to avoid the need for a mechanical drive from the distributor) was followed by contemporary fuel, temperature, battery condition and oil pressure gauges, plus the necessary warning lights and switches.
Having first sanded down the old dash I then added a new self-adhesive veneer which I then stained before applying several coats of polyurethane varnish. The result isn’t highly polished like some of the lovely after-market offerings but it will do the job and in my view will be a good match for the car.
Not being thrilled by the thought of motorway driving at 70mph pulling 4,500 revs from the outset I always planned to give the car ‘longer legs’ than the standard Herald. Initially, I considered changing the differential from the usual ratio of 4.11 to 3.89 but eventually opted for the more popular (and expensive) solution of fitting an overdrive from a Spitfire which I purchased (along with an engine) from a local TSSC member. Buying these things without having seen them in action is always a bit of a risk, but having cleaned the filter, changed the oil and checked the solenoid I’m reasonably confident that it will be fine.
I’d originally intended to use the 13/60 engine but when the opportunity arose to buy a MK3 Spitfire engine (along with the overdrive gearbox – above) at reasonable cost, I decided to take the line of least resistance and save myself the time and expense of having to go through a full rebuild. Again, there’s a bit of a risk involved, but having had the head off and the camshaft out for inspection, both of which appear to be okay, I’m hopeful that there should be no problems. The fact that at some stage in the fairly recent past its been rebored + 20 thou gives me additional confidence and I was pleased to see that the head’s already been converted to unleaded.
Its taken far longer than I originally intended, but at last I’m nearing the end of the body restoration and with any luck there’s a realistic chance that I should be able to get the body in for painting early in the new year. Several months ago I decided that some of the major jobs, including fitting a number of new panels, were beyond my basic welding skills, so I bit the bullet and brought in a professional for a couple of days work. Whilst he did a decent job and was undoubtedly much faster than I could hope to be, I’m afraid that he broke the golden rule of ‘measure three times and cut once’ so unfortunately one or two sections of his work look a bit like a patchwork quilt!
Practice generally makes perfect, and those bits of minor welding that I’ve undertaken myself have gradually started to improve and there are one or two areas that I’m actually quite proud of. The main thing is that even those sections that look like a ‘dog’s breakfast’ are strong and will stand the test of time once the car is back on the road.
Whilst most of the Herald’s major body components, such as the ‘tub’, bulkhead and doors, were/are in reasonable condition and, subject to a reasonable amount of rust-stripping and welding, can be refurbished and used in the re-build, I quickly came to the conclusion that the bonnet would take more work than I was prepared to carry out. In addition I have personally always thought that the front of the Herald 13/60 is more attractive than that of the 1200 – so I decided to go looking for a 13/60 bonnet in good condition. By chance I didn’t have to go far and managed to find one locally – the only slight drawback was that I had to buy the whole car!
So here it is – a 1970 convertible that’s sat in a local garage for the past 15 years and is in fairly dreadful condition – with the exception that the bonnet was rebuilt shortly before the car was taken off the road. Whilst the bonnet itself is in pretty good condition with just a little surface rust, the chassis, tub, doors and most other panels are sadly very badly rusted and fit only for spares or scrap.
I intend to use the engine which is 1296cc, although it isn’t from a 13/60 having come originally from a 1974 Toledo or Dolomite. I understand from the seller that it was ‘sick’ before the car was taken off the road so will need rebuilding before it goes into the Herald; that said it does turn over which is a step in the right direction! The gearbox and some other parts will be sold to help fund the project and a few bits and pieces, such as the 13/60 dashboard, will find their way into the rebuild.
The chassis build-up seems to be fighting me at every opportunity so I’ve decided to take a short break from wielding a spanner and instead spend a few days with the wire brush and cutting wheel in hand. In general the body is pretty good considering its been stood in a garage for at least 35 years. That said one of the first things I noticed when I started the strip down was the vast amount of caked-on mud that was attached to each and every surface – the last driver must have spent several happy hours ploughing (literally) through every muddy field he could find! That coating may in fact have had a beneficial effect because, although Triumph steel isn’t noted for its rust resistance, most of the body is fairly sound.
The sills and the front and quarter valances were ‘toast’ (or looked like that anyway) and went straight to the scrapyard, and I’m going to have to do quite a bit of patching elsewhere with repairs to the bottoms of the ‘B’ posts and a couple of new sections of floor, but most of the remainder should be OK with a good clean-up, a few coats of Bonda Rust Primer and lots of preparation before the top coats are applied.
I’m not particularly looking forward to getting to grips with the welding that’s needed. I’d originally intended to borrow or hire a spot welder for some of the work but that’s now looking unlikely so I’ll have to do my best with the MIG welder instead. If the panels are just too thin and the job turns out to be beyond my skill level, I think that I may contact a local guy who runs a mobile welding service and seems to know what he’s doing with classic cars.
Well, its taken far longer than I anticipated but at last my chassis repairs are complete and I can start the rather more enjoyable task of starting to rebuild the car and in so doing start to empty the summerhouse of the all those bits of Herald that I’ve been steadily refurbishing for the past six months.
I ended up replacing both side rails, three of the outriggers (three had been replaced in the dim and distant past and, despite being poorly welded, were still in good condition) and plating the remaining two. I also added a couple of reinforcement plates which will hopefully strengthen the rear of the chassis and prevent muck getting into the rear box sections. All-in-all I’m quietly pleased the results of my welding which has improved markedly over the past couple of months. Welding the thin and rusty bodywork will, of course, be a whole different matter!
Having finished welding the chassis I sent it off to our local ‘blasters’ who did an excellent job, including giving it a coat of primer, for only £75 – money very well spent. I then gave it another coat of zinc-based primer followed by a couple of coats of Frosts ‘Extreme Chassis Black’ which will hopefully keep it protected in the years to come. At the end of the restoration I’ll fill/coat it with Waxoyl – I’ve had a gallon tin in the garage for the past 20 years, I knew it would come in handy one day!
Progress with the Herald is turning out to be a little slower than I’d planned. With a crowded and unheated garage the problem at this time year is waiting for reasonable days on which I can work on the car outside. Some jobs can be done inside, but whenever possible I prefer to do any cutting, grinding or wire-brushing outside and keep the garage reasonably free of muck and dust.
Herald body 'tub' - lots of surface rust but reasonably sound
Herald driver's side floor/footwell in need of repair
I’ve borrowed a MIG welder and started repairs to the chassis, though its already clear that my welding skills need improvement! I attended evening classes at the Royal Agricultural University a couple of years ago which have stood me in good stead, but there’s a world of difference between welding up an old plough blade and trying to repair sections of thin, and sometimes rusty, car bodywork. Still, practice will hopefully make perfect and once completed most of my chassis repairs will be hidden out of sight and hopefully I’ll improve before I have to start on the bodywork.
I’ve managed to tuck the bonnet and bulkhead/scuttle away in a local barn to keep them dry until I start work on them. The main body/tub will follow once I’ve made sure that my chassis repairs are accurate and the body will eventually fit back on the chassis once all the cutting and welding is finished. I’ve decided to replace the driver’s side floor, which is fairly rotten, and I’ve bought some other minor repair sections for the bonnet and tub but, those aside, I’m hopeful that the body won’t need too much in the way of welding.
Rather than spend the thick end of £1,000 getting someone else to soda blast the bodywork I’ve decided to splash out on a grit/soda blasting setup and do the work myself. It will also mean upgrading my compressor, but even so the cost will be less and it will be much more convenient doing it this way. In the meantime I’ve had already had some parts blasted and primed by a local business who normally deal with massive RSJs and the like – £40 well spent.
I’ve spent the last couple of months gradually stripping parts off the Herald before either discarding or cleaning, painting and generally refurbishing them in preparation for the great day when I start reassembing the car. It’s a bit of a mixed bag; some parts have come out literaly as good as new, whilst others have needed a fair amount of attention to bring them up to a good enough standard – and a few have gone straight in the bin. At the end of the day I’m not aiming to produce a show car, but it would be a shame to drop the standard of the rebuild for the want of spending a few pennies as I go.
Along the way I’ve found one or two ‘nasties’ where the tin worm has eaten its way through the bodywork. At the moment things don’t look too bad, but its difficult to be sure about the state of some of the panels, especially the floor, until I’ve had them bead or soda blasted. One thing I’ve been surprised about is the amount of mud that was clinging to the bottom of the car – the chassis rails were full of the stuff, to the extent that it looked as though the car had been driven through fields before it was taken off the road. The fact that the underside of the car was coated in this stuff for at least three decades makes me wonder that rust didn’t consume the entire car long ago!
The arrival of family manpower home for Christmas provided the opportunity to lift the body off the chassis, so with the help of Dave Hardy (a fellow Gloucester TSSC member) we spent an interesting 15 minutes yesterday morning ‘getting her top off’. All went smoothly with the exception of one retaining bolt which refused to budge until it succumbed to the attentions of the angle grinder.
Once the chassis was exposed it became clear that fairly major repairs have been been carried out previously – the two side rails and three of the riggers have been replaced at some time in the past, though without welds on the upper edges of the rails – which indicates that the work was done without removing the body and therefore resulted in a substantially weaker repair. Of the five remaining riggers the two front ones seem to be OK but the remaining three are dangerously thin and will have to be replaced along with the two side rails. My plan is to do so before sending the chassis off for blasting to reduce the risk of distortion and problems when it comes to replacing the body.
The body itself is now sat on the drive waiting for me to get the chassis and running gear sorted. The first job will be to remove the engine, gearbox, differential, suspension and brakes in preparation for getting the chassis welded and blasted. Not much to do really!
Completely stripping a 50 year-old car of all her parts and panels can have its challenges and it’s odd how some fasteners that you expect to prove difficult can give way quite easily whilst others can be a bit of a nightmare. On the whole, however, the Herald has so far chosen to give up most of its parts gracefully, though I have had to grind or drill my way through a few nuts and bolts that decided that they weren’t about to give up without a fight.
As far as rust is concerned there have been no great surprises as yet. As predicted the rear quarter valances went straight in the scrap bin, though I was quite pleased that they came unbolted relatively easily. Unfortunately the left-hand side of the boot floor behind the petrol tank resembles ‘brown lace’ and will have to be replaced, and the sills and front valance were too far gone to save.
The latest unwanted find was a couple of holes in the driver’s footwell and where the scuttle meets the rear tub, which will also need the ministrations of the MIG welder; hopefully that will be the last of the rust discoveries – at least until such time as we take the body off the chassis.
I quite enjoy the process of cleaning and refurbishing parts as they’re removed from the car; at least that way I know that they’ll be in good order when it comes to refitting them to the car once the bodywork has been sorted. The problem at this time of year is that the weather isn’t particularly condusive to working in an unheated and over-crowded garage – still we addicts must suffer for our enthusiasms!
As I go I’m putting together a growing list of all the parts that will have to be sourced, whether new or secondhand. As the 1200 (1147cc) engine is well and truly seized I’ve decided to find a 1296cc engine from a Spitfire or Herald 13/60 to replace it; I bid for one on FleaBay a couple of days ago and only missed it by £2 – very frustrating, but no doubt I’ll find something eventually.
The day set for collecting the car finally arrived and I was grateful to Eric for his advice, strength and trailer which made the whole process so much easier. We were joined by Jane Rowley who kept me greatly amused (!) by repeated comments such as ‘all it needs is a few tins of T Cut’! The rear N/S brake was well and truly locked on but we managed to get the car on the trailer by using one of the ‘dollies’ that came as part of the deal and, staggeringly enough, all of the tyres managed to hold some air – not bad after around three decades of deflation.
Getting the car into a sensible position once Eric and I got it home was a different matter. Dollies with 3 inch wheels don’t rotate easily on gravel drives and I eventually decided to leave it ‘abandoned’ in the middle of the drive until such time as I could release the locked brake drum. The bad news is that it’s still there as the next day I came down with a full-blown case of flu and have been bedded down for the last 12 days while the car starts to look even sadder and more dejected! Not a great start to the restoration.
Being a bit of an impatient sort of chap (really?) and a bit of an idiot (really!) yesterday I decided to rise from my sickbed and make what I suspect will be the first of several assaults on the car with the power washer. The results were interesting. As expected the rear valences immediately disintegrated into an unpleasant mixture of rust and mud, whereas the rest of the body panels, although carrying plenty of surface rust, appear to be sound with no gaping holes or spectacular views of the gravel drive from inside the car. The passenger door in particular seems to have been repainted at some point in the car’s history; although under the force of the power washer the top coat immediately parted company with the door skin the undercoat/primer seems to be in good condition. I suspect that it may be a different story when it comes to examining the points at which the body attaches to the chassis – but you never know.
Anyway, the priority over the next week will be to get that rear brake drum unlocked and manouevering the car into the relative ‘sanctuary’ of the garage.
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