We start work on the motor
It was in February 1998 that tragedy struck. Bill Davies, my chief patron, counsellor and inspiration, passed away in his sleep just weeks away from a heart bypass operation. For a while the restoration was forgotten as we came to terms with his death and the gap that this would leave in the team.
We had been using the workshop at the museum for 16 months and although we remained there for a further few months it soon became obvious that we would need a new home. Fortunately we were made welcome at Phil Boyd's garage in Waihi where Steve made new skins for the doors, but the reality was that we badly needed a new place in Tauranga. Once again I was fortunate and able to rent a workshop off an old client of mine only about 180 yards from my own home. How lucky can one guy get!
While Clarissa was away up north getting her makeover, work moved on with the motor. When it was dismantled it was found that the big ends and mains required some attention, but the pistons were in good condition and wear in the bore was minimal. We decided to take the motor up to Dion Coleman in Whangaparoa, about 20 kms south of Snells Beach
Approximately two months after being transported north on Phil's truck, Clarissa was ready to be collected. So we put the motor on a large car trailer behind friend Herb's big 5-litre V8 Holden and after an enjoyable trip we dropped the engine off in Whangaparoa and carried on to Snells Beach.
We found the car in good order and soon had it loaded on the trailer ready to go home. What a trip we had! The trailer was the largest available and Clarissa only just made it on - a tight squeeze. The 5 litres of raw power in the Holden meant that we cruised home at 100kph at 1100rpm, very economical for so much power. We were able to maintain cruising speed uphill and so made good time to Tauranga and Clarissa's new home. Once home it was necessary to take off all the guards and re-spray the chassis where overspray from the body putty had left its mark.
Then at last I got another call from the north, this time Dion Coleman to tell me the motor was ready to be picked up. He had balanced the clutch and flywheel but - typical Hudson - the crank and pistons were already in balance!
So we had another trip up north to collect the engine and drop it off at Phil's place in Waihi, where he and his son Russell would prepare it for fitting to the chassis. Waihi is just 39km north of Tauranga so it was not a difficult job to load Clarissa onto a trailer and take her up to have the motor fitted. The next few months were spent ferrying parts to Waihi and helping Russell assemble the motor. I had been fortunate to obtain a set of new cast iron pinned rings and with a light hone of the bore and Russell's cleanliness and patience it was soon complete.
Unfortunately I was unable to be there when it was finally finished but understand that a temporary fuel tank was fitted and the motor primed - it thereupon fired on its very first spin of the starter!
A week later, we assembled to try driving it for the first time, with a box for a seat, no guards, no doors, no bonnet - in fact it was only a bare skeleton with power! First to try was Phil, then Russell and finally I got behind the wheel for my first drive. Although the seating was too unstable for any indication of speed and power we did get a strong impression of the quietness and smoothness of the motor and transmission.
The next few weeks were spent completing the wiring and installation, attaching the radiator and bleeding the brakes, and finally we installed a seat from a late 70s Lancia. Totally out of context, but very comfortable and a stable seat, so out we went onto the back roads of Waihi to see what she was really like. What a revelation - she cruised quite happily at 45mph and when she was warm I tempted fate with a touch of the loud pedal. The speedo flicked quickly past 55 and up to 60 mph but as the car was not registered discretion proved the better part of valour and I slowly made my way back to Phil's garage.
Clarissa was soon back home in Tauranga and we regrouped our finances. I prepared to attend the 2000 rally in Hamilton, where I had hoped to take Clarissa but she was not ready, so I attended with friend Herb in his immaculate 1924 Morris Oxford Bullnose. We had two weeks of rallying in the scenic Waikato and heaps of fun - we even transported Clarissa to the one make day, joining the Hudson Essex Club and having a great day.