An Aston Martin Departs

21 months into a 6 month project, and finally the Aston is finished! I still don’t know how it took that long. A full on body off restoration on one of my Renaults would take only 3 months, and all I had to do on the Aston was replace the sills.

I think a lot of it was due to the special hand crafted nature of the Aston. These cars are actually quite complex. Where an A pillar repair on a Renault might just involve cutting out the rusty bit then welding in a new bit of metal and painting, the Aston V8 requires the aluminium body cutting off, and then half a dozen different panels replacing. 2 hours for the Renault vs 2 months for the Aston.

It’s the same with service items. The Renault can have new brake discs after half an hours work. Replacing the rear discs on the Aston involves dropping the differential. 30 minutes for the Renault vs 3 days for the Aston!

Before and after photos for the restoration are nonsense as all the really nice work is hidden underneath, but here they are anyway. The car seems happier now:


Very few people will appreciate my 21 months of work. An MOT tester might look underneath in 20 years time and appreciate why this one hasn’t rusted like all the others. And the owner should find the structure trouble free for the rest of his ownership. Nobody else will notice any difference. But that’s not important. The important thing to me is that I restored an Aston and restored it well. There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in that.

My therapy following the Aston is a Renault 4 restoration. Follow the progress here: Renault 4 Restoration

Guess who’s got an MOT!

The new rear brake servo was delivered by Davron in less time than it ultimately took to fit. At one point I wondered if it might be more convenient to remove the engine for access, but it did wiggle out in the end.

The fuel gauge problem turned out to be the sender inside the tank which had to be taken apart for cleaning. Unfortunately the tank had been brimmed following the previous petrol related issue, and while the 10 mile drive to the MOT station and back had done a remarkably good job of emptying it, I did need to distribute a little posh petrol among various Renaults before the tank was light enough to remove.

The second MOT test was a very nervous time for me. One failed MOT might be considered a quick way to do a vacuum check, but two failures would be careless. The car had started to rock backwards and forwards on 6 cylinders as soon as it arrived. Also we had the tough MOT guy this time who went over the car with in great detail without any facial expression that might have suggested how we were doing.

Finally the test was completed. The Man from the MOT station – he say YES!

He let us plug the car into the exhaust testing machine which showed the best results I’ve ever seen as the car rocked backwards and forwards on it’s lower than normal cylinder count. The lack of unburned hydrocarbons suggests that a lack of fuel may be responsible for the lack of cylinders, so a little more work will be needed to unblock idle jets, but once that’s done the car will be finished. I have a bottle of Champaign waiting for the moment. Now might be the time to start chilling it.


OK, it’s not real Champaign, it’s a Spanish version which makes it appropriate on this occasion (I couldn’t find a Dutch version). I’ll post some photos of the actual car soon.

The MOT Test

The day didn’t start too well. I’d filled the Aston with the same amount of petrol that would brim my Renault 4 from empty. And still we ran out just 3 miles down the road! We missed our slot at the MOT station and had to go back later.

The MOT was actually quite successful. I’d been in two minds whether we had a vacuum leak or whether the engine just needed a good run to bed in the valves. Turned out to be a vacuum leak from the rear servo, so the car failed on the rear brakes.

A couple of other issues cropped up – the fuel gauge doesn’t work, the front brakes pull to the right then to the left on light braking (something that’s developed since last week), a reversing light, and a window motor wired back to front – goes up when it should go down. Otherwise the car seems to work well.

I’ve got a worklist, so if this servo can arrive a little more quickly than the last one then there’s a chance of a completed project within a week. Which will be a good thing as there’s a long queue of Renaults waiting for their turn in the garage.

An Aston Martin that works!

The brake servo arrived a little late last week.   A safety check at the weekend (making sure all the nuts and bolts were done up and that there was no petrol dribbling on the exhaust) and ready for a test drive.

I quite enjoyed driving the car up and down the driveway.   It’s similar to a 1970’s Rolls Royce in that everything feels smooth and nicely crafted, there’s a pleasant V8 burble, and next to no damping (even with the Koni’s on this car which I guess are set to comfort).   I found it a very relaxing and pleasant experience.

Right up until I tried to stop – at first the brakes needed more of a push than I’d expected, but they did improve a lot after a few trips down the drive.  They’ll need a little time to bed in but have got to the point where they’ll lock the wheels with a decent push, so they shouldn’t be a problem for the MOT.

The MOT garage (I’ve been going to Homan Tyre in Kempston for years and they are excellent) have a vacuum gauge that we can use to check for vacuum leaks.   A lack of vacuum would account for poor throttle pick up at low speed as well as under-assisted brakes.

MOT next week with luck.   First a good polish is in order.

it works!

Something of a slip in timing

What a week.   I’ve had three major deadlines this week.   On Sunday a two month web project was launched on an unsuspecting public.   That was rather a fixed deadline, and I made it.

On Tuesday a friend flew down from Scotland to collect my MGB V8.   it had been off the road for a year so needed a bit of work to make sure it was reliable for his trip home.  Again a fixed deadline as the flight was already paid for.  He made it home without problems, and enjoyed the trip.

On Friday the Aston was booked in for an MOT.   This morning all was looking good, with the seats all that was required to complete the car.  That and replacing an anti-roll bar mounting that had cracked.

That was the afternoon gone.   It was a dead cert that the bolts would snap, but it was less than ideal that a (not very important) part of chassis had to be removed for access to drill and tap the bolt thread it was hiding.

Onto the brakes.   They had been bled before I fitted the rear axle but not since - they needed to be bled again.   A 5 minute job.   Unless of course air doesn’t stop coming out of the front brakes.   Had to be the servo.

I stole one of Nigel’s brake servos to fix the emergency (I’d have paid for it honest) and fitted it in the evening.   The brakes bled successfully and all that remained was a safety check.

Which the car failed.   The new servo didn’t let air in, but it did let fluid out.

I’m a year late already so another few days delay should be neither here nor there.  I’ll order up another and organise an MOT in a week once I’ve had a chance to test out the car a little more fully.

Get on with it!

No progress on the Aston today, but I did receive an email.   Here it is in full:

 Hi Malc,

Get the pesky thing started & stop writing about it!

Regards, John

I can’t think of better advice than that.  

Pirelli Advert

Pirelli are doing the viral marketing thing. Put something cool on the web and hope people to link to it in their blogs. It’s worked:

Pirelli’s “The Call” is an excellent 8 minute film. John Malkovich is a priest in Rome who is called upon to exorcise an unruly TVR Sagaris, represented in spirit by a rather naked Naomi Campbell. In the film the TVR’s wheelspinning antics are finally calmed by a set of Pirelli tyres.

Of course in real life a TVR doing doughnuts in Italy would normally be cheered on by the locals (even the priests), but don’t let that detract from the excellent film.

You’ll need to select a movie format and quality from the menu on the left before it’ll play. It’s a real movie, so if you end up looking at a sequence of freeze frames then try the middle quality for the windows player (the one that looks like a flag with 4 squares) as that’s the one that worked for me.

Organisation – that’s not like me!

It’s not like me to be organised, but there are a couple of things I did early on in the project that I’m very grateful of now:

  • All the little screws from the interior ended up in plastic bags marked with the general area they came from – ie doors, dash, rear seat, boot etc. That’s so helpful in working out which screw goes where at the end of a project.
  • I took hundreds of photos during dis-assembly which have been great in working out where all the bits go, how the wiring connects, and importantly the sequence of assembly.

Sounds obvious. But I’ve been very lucky with my photos – I forgot to record the assembly sequence of a few bits and pieces, and it’s quite important on the Aston. It’s easy to spend a week working on the car and then find everything has to be undone again to fit some daft screw.

Some before and after photos.

I’ve been flipping through some photos from the start of the project (mostly to try and figure out where all the bits came from). It’s interesting to compare then and now:

Original sill rust

Sills repaired and painted

Original front arch

Front wheelarch with shiny bits

But who is going to see the underneath? Maybe just the MOT tester and the occasional unlucky pedestrian.

Interior to go in and then the project is finished. There are a whole load of things that I’m keen to finish at the moment. For crazy reasons of my own I’ve set a deadline of 4th July to finish everything. Work like mad until then, and have a break once everything is over and done with.


I waxoyled the Aston this morning. It’s always a messy task, but made a lot easier and more effective by using a compressor rather than the nasty hand pump things that you can buy in Halfords. I invested about £60 in a “wax-auto international” gun, and it’s been fantastic.

Waxoyl gun

The cleaned interior is laid out on sheets in the middle of the garage now, so there’s half a chance the car will be almost complete by the end of the week. Of course completely complete is another matter.