More battles with the body

Clarissa was back home again and Colton came round to commence battle once more. The first problem was getting the doors to fit so that the gaps on the B-post and the A-post looked equal. Our correction to the body so that both doors were now the same size came back to haunt us. On went the doors; we checked them out and worked out what adjustments were needed, then off they came again, then on again, off again, on, off - we lost count but eventually they were right.

The second problem was fitting the bonnet - and getting it so that it lined up nicely with the radiator shroud. Needless to say, it didn't. We then ran into one of the idiosyncrasies of hand-built bodies: they are built and cut to size, they are not all cut out and then assembled. The line from the A-post to the radiator shroud went slightly uphill, as did the line from the A post to the rear of the car. Only slightly out, but not acceptable, the bonnet had a one-inch gap at the bottom of one side and a quarter-inch gap on the other side - definitely wrong. Thoughts of cutting a new bonnet etc. were in my mind, but finally Colton said we needed to raise the body tub up a quarter of an inch. What a job, to unbolt all the holding bolts, release any tight wiring and get a jack underneath. With pressure it looked as if the wheels were coming off the ground, but finally with a painful groan the body lifted sufficiently to put the necessary packers in. Absolutely amazing, that one small adjustment lined up the radiator, the A-post and the rear with the added bonus that the gap around the bonnet miraculously disappeared! After all that struggle I thought we had it fixed, but I was wrong: the doors that we had painstakingly adjusted were all out of kilter again, so we were back to the door jiggle. Clarissa's doors are very large, and even though they are made of aluminium, the glass and timber make them heavy, and they get heavier every time you take them off! But eventually they were right and we could get on to the next bit.

Our next problem was the original seats. The base was rotten so Colton rebuilt them ready for the upholsterer. When I came to attach the slides I found the metal worn and no longer parallel; metal fatigue had set in and it was tearing badly. Fortunately I had available a pair of seats out of a Lancia that had seat runners that could be modified to do the job.

Problem number 4 was a nightmare: how do you fit a boot lid on a sloping rear tub and exclude water from the boot? Getting the lid to fit correctly took some time. Then we decided that we would channel the water into the boot and down to the back using a small guttering system, similar to your normal roof gutter (but much smaller), and then vent it out to the ground via downpipes through the floor. The system works successfully.

Colton had built a frame to take the numberplate and two D-lights; I was lucky to have the original number plates issued in 1937 and a personal plate with the same number. These were fitted and all the wiring was checked.

The hood bows had worried me, and they had been taken off and Colton had remedied the timber so that it was all OK. In my hurry I had neglected to copy exactly how they were set up, so I had to work it out by trial and error. The only problem was that I was able to fit them in three different ways and all ways looked OK. It wasn't until I fitted the bar that goes across the top of the screen and attempted to attach the strut from this to the front hood bow that the options suddenly narrowed to one, but this wasn't until much later when we had it in the upholsterer's shop.

We now had a car with body, bonnet, seats etc., all ready for painting. Who should paint it? I got talking to a mechanic mate, Tony Baggaley, who had just had some painting done by John Kenny. I remembered John from when he had a paint shop next to Tony at Fraser Street Motors; he had moved out to the country and had done an Austin Healey for Bill Davies a few years before.

I got on the phone and John agreed to come down and discuss the job. It turned out he had a bit of spare time and the job was interesting so we soon struck a deal and got the car ready to take up to him. I should have towed it - it wasn't registered or insured on the road - but the thought of saving the hire of the trailer combined with my eagerness to take it for a spin got the better of me.

So early on a Sunday morning in October 2000 I drove it to John's, a bit chilly but I didn't notice it, a bit noisy (no bonnet) but I didn't hear it, all I felt was smooth power under no stress.

John is very patient (he has to be with me) and he let me help in a small way by rubbing down bits that he had primed up. He called this the **** work that is so important - it must be because he kept making me do it again and again until he was satisfied. Only he was allowed to do the final rubbing down. Because the car is hand-built each separate part has to be painted before it is reassembled for final touch up and cutting. I had decided to paint the car in a lacquer for ease of maintenance and to keep it as original as possible. Then came the day when John rang me and asked if I would like to take some photos, because she was all ready for the upholsterer. We sat the front and rear guards and the bonnet on the body, took some photos, and then removed them for the trip to the upholsterer. Great - another of those early Sunday drives!

I had talked with Gordon Cromb from Tauranga Auto Upholstery, who had recently done some work for Len Nicolson and the result was good. Gordon and I came to an arrangement over dollars and he even let me have access to his workshop so that other work could be progressed at the same time. We tucked the car away in Gordon's workshop in November while I turned my attention to my accounting trade, trying to earn a few more shekels to keep the wheels turning...

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