I’ve always had a soft spot for Herald Convertibles. In 1970, at the tender age of 18, I traded in my very first car, a Hillman Imp, for a dark blue 1964 Herald Convertible which cost the princely sum of £165 – I think that I got around £90 as trade-in value for the Imp. As I was only earning £27/10s a month at the time this was not only a considerable investment but also a significant step up and an excellent introduction to open-top motoring (I seem to recall not having put the hood up for at least the first six months of ownership – those were the days!) I kept the Herald for about two years before ‘upgrading’ to a Spitfire (MK2 I think) which promptly dropped its thrust washers and needed an engine rebuild. Still, that’s progress for you.
It so happens that my affection for Herald Convertibles has stood the test of time, so when I heard about a 1967 Herald 1200 that had been off the road for more than thirty years and was in need of restoration I couldn’t resist going to have a look. Well ………. one thing leads to another and before you could say ‘complete rebuild’ I’d made an offer and bought myself a project for the winter months.
Now, the moral of this story is ‘never buy a pig in a poke’ – or more accurately, ‘never buy a 50 year-old Herald withough first crawling over every inch of it’. As it turned out the car was a complete dog! The engine was stubornly and irretreivably seized, the bonnet was too rotten to weld, the tub and bulkhead had a fair amount of rust and the chassis (which had been the subject of several previous poor quality repairs) needed a great deal of work. On the plus side, I quite liked the small steering wheel.
So what did I do, I hear you ask? Well, I did what any other addict would have done – I went out and bought another Herald with the intention of using the good parts from the first car in the rebuild of the second. Simples.
My second purchase, a 1971 13/60 convertible, had also been tucked away from the light of day for more than a decade, but with an excellent bonnet, a reasonable chassis and a engine that turned over (although in the end I didn’t use it) I now had many of the bits necessary to form the basis of a restoration.
So the hard work began. After stripping both cars I got to grips with the chassis which, it turned out, needed three of the outriggers, both rear chassis extensions and both of the side rails replaced. After having the remains blasted I set about the necessary welding and made a point of reinforcing and boxing-in the two rear jacking points, which should add a little rigidity to the Herald’s rather puny chassis. Finished off with two coats of zinc oxide primer and a couple of layers of Frost’s Extreme Chassis Black it should keep the weather at bay for a year or two.
Cleaning up and refurbishing the suspension and running gear took a while. Some of the parts that I couldn’t get back to bare metal with a wire brush, including the springs and wishbones, were sent off to be blasted before being given the zinc oxide and Chassis Black treatment. On reassembly new shock absorbers, track rod ends, bushes and bearings were fitted all round. At one point I considered swapping the differential from standard to 1:3.89 but eventually abandoned this idea in favour of fitting an overdrive gearbox (see below). The rear brakes got new linings, hoses and slave cylinders whilst at the front I replaced the disks, calipers, pads and hoses and fitted a larger master cylinder.
I’ve never been terribly keen on doing ‘serious’ bodywork and working on this car has reminded me just why. Having spent some days with the wire brush removing 50 years of accumulated rust I tried my very limited welding skills on some very thin and rusty steel before eventually paying for a couple of days work by a mobile welder to take on some of the larger jobs, including letting a new footwell panel into the bulkhead and patching the tub.
The work to-date had taken about 9 months (yes, I know I said it was a winter project, but I didn’t say which winter …..) and hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours work but I eventually had a sound chassis with completely rebuilt running gear and bodywork which, if viewed from a distance, looked reasonable.
Time, then, to take the whole lot down to ‘The Polite Auto Bodyshop‘ in Gloucester for Jan and his team to work some miracles.
I don’t know whether I’d expected him to praise my preparation, but having taken one look at it the first thing he told me was to take the tub off to get it blasted to remove the rust that I’d failed to eradicate with dozens (according to my neighbours, hundreds) of hours of wire brushing. Bugger!
Anyway, with the tub now suitably naked I left Jan and the boys to get on with the business of bringing the bodywork up to ‘show’ standard and preparing it for painting in my chosen colour of Royal Blue, which by almost complete coincidence was the colour of original Herald ‘back in the day’.
In the meantime I got down to the business of refurbishing the depressingly small number of original parts that were completely serviceable and set about sourcing the rapidly expanding list of new parts I needed. Where on earth would we be without FleaBay?
Having abandoned the seized engine I cast around for a replacement and managed to find a Spitfire III engine which the seller assured me ran well with plenty of performance. As he was also selling an overdrive gearbox (which actually turned out to be a factory reconditioned unit) we did a deal which saved me a fair amount of work, and quite possibly a few pennies. Although I was fairly confident that it wouldn’t need any significant work nevertheless I decided to remove the head and in doing so discovered that had previously been bored out by 20 thou and converted to run on unleaded fuel.
In the meantime the bodywork was given some serious attention. Any remaining rot was removed and new metal let in as necessary, whilst at the same time a few of my own not-too-professional repairs were sorted out before the entire body was carefully prepared for painting. At this point the main body sections were trial-fitted back to the chassis before being removed once more for painting.
After priming the underside and interior of the car was painted in a Cobra epoxy resin finish whilst the top surfaces were sprayed in several coats of 2K in Royal Blue.