After four months of enforced inactivity caused by tennis elbow, I decided to have a major session with ROJ and took a whole week off work.
The plan was to rebuild the front and rear suspension and axles.
All the major parts have been grit-blasted and powder coated, and then painted with black hammerite. The problem was that there were odd things missing or damaged â€“ so I had to remove a few things from the wreck in the barn â€“ no easy task as it is in very bad shape.
10% rust, 90% stupidity Once again the adage of â€˜donâ€™t work when tiredâ€™ was brought home with a crash, when I knocked the damn thing off itâ€™s axle stands â€“ cracked the sump on my spare engine and spilled 11 litres of oil over the deck. Fortunately the barn was full of straw, and an old duvet supplied the feathers to soak up the mess. But then Iâ€™ve found that car restoration is more often than not two steps forward one step back.
The best engineering brains, a bottle of vin rouge and six feet of surgical tubes. There is always a danger when dipping steel into hot zinc that it will distort in the heat, and several of the thinner panels did warp slightly â€“ so I used a spirit level and laser to measure the main structure of the chassis for distortion. I was not too happy with my measurements â€“ but the two scientists Malcolm and Robert came up with an ingenious plan â€“ without a single scribbled theorem, or convoluted equation. The idea was blindingly simple â€“ and wonderfully easy to use.
Six feet of clear surgical tube filled with red wine (the best part was being able to drink the left-overs) â€“ hold one end against one mounting point and the other on the corresponding point â€“ then measure off the difference in wine levels. The result â€“ ROJ is as straight as a die, with a 3mm deviation on the front wishbone mounting that can be corrected with shims, far more accurate than my previous measurements.
Farewell my lovely It was strange to see the OI disappearing down the drive â€“ Malcolm looked like a proud parent with a smile on his lips and a tear in his eye. From my perspective the OI had been a very useful reference work on how certain parts fit together. Before it left we rode in it down to the pub for lunch and the sound of the engine sent tingles down my spine â€“ I cannot wait until ROJ is in the same state.
I have been really privileged to watch Malcolm at work over the past few months – I know what’s underneath that shiney new paint job, and if ROJ is half as good by the time I finish I will be best pleased.
Two photosÂ I took last week before the OI drove off into the sunset:
Malcolm tries unsuccessfully to beat the rain…
Malcolm waves goodbye to 21 months hard work.
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
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 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.