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!
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