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.
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.