When you take a critical look at your beloved chariot and think “Hmm, beginning to look a bit tired old girl” – beware! Once you begin to look, you may find one thing after another and it can be a slippery slope to a complete strip-down. I know; I was that soldier.
Take another look at the photo of TC7045 in my ‘Don’t get married on a dare’ article in October’s TTT 2. As she went round corners, a discernible list in the body appeared and so I decided to look to see what the problem was. I took out the internal trim – finished in a gruesome brown material which I thought may have been put in during a previous restoration. In later years I have seen photos of other owners’ cars with a similar interior – how many are there out there? Could it conceivably have been a run from the Factory when supplies of leather ran short? When the brown top colour wears off, it goes a pale blue. But I digress.
This is what met my horrified eyes!
I always thought it was the magical pixies on the Abingdon shop floor who built the frame out of seasoned ash – not Bob the Builder with a bucket full of unidentified rubble.
Oh, dear, oh dear! If the bit I could see was like that, what was the rest like? So I took the panels off and found this:
Almost every stick in her poor old body was rotten – in some places by damp and in others riddled by burrowing insects.
No wonder the body was leaning over!
The diff frame only had three pieces – two sides and rear and they were paper tubes – the centres having been eaten away by woodworm. The diff ramp appeared to have been made using a hatchet on a piece of packing case. All of the steel screws holding the frame together were rusted and the wood around them rotted away, so I could simply pull them straight out either with my bare fingers or at their most tenacious with a pair of fine nosed pliers.
As you can see, I photographed every step, knowing I was bound to forget how to put it back together again. You simply cannot take too many pictures from every angle. Bet your boots that the one thing you have not recorded pictorially is bound to be the very thing which has you scratching your head years later. My garage floor was littered with powdered ash and rust. Sherrell says never throw anything TC away – do you know I seriously considered putting all of it in a bin in case I had missed something and actually swept up some crucial pin, bolt, washer or nut which can no longer be sourced. I stopped short of being quite so obsessive, but I do have bags of all the original rusty screws, rotten felt and other broken bits of wood faithfully labelled.
Oh, well, I said to myself, it’s a big job getting the body sorted out but I might as well totally take the frame apart and rebuild it – at least I’ve got a nice, solid, mechanically sound chassis and running gear to put it back on to… Yes, you’ve guessed it.
Once I stood back and surveyed the rolling chassis which had been revealed in all its nakedness, I knew there was more to come…and come it will, next time.
Ed’s Note: I can empathise with Chris concerning “a discernible list in the body” I had the same experience when my J2 was on the road – and yes the J2’s body literally fell to pieces when taken off!