Author Archives: Nigel

About Nigel

This restoration has been a real learning curve - but far cheaper than paying a psychiatrist.

Unexpected Aston

I had an interesting experience this morning – I was looking for a place in Clapham and went a bit wrong, so walked into a yard to ask directions – spotted a Ferrari 308 behind some boxes and got chatting to the owner, told him I was restoring an Aston. He then pointed to a pile of industrial waste and said “That’s one”.

It was too – it was this:

And no, I’m not putting in a bid.

Flash Harry

Well Norway was fun – and a nice change from Geneva. Even got some cross country skiing in.

Usual story – car has been seriously neglected.

I did manage to renovate the front indicators and side repeaters.

They were a bit scruffy – but with a bit of polish, some new wiring and some new seals made from a piece of neoprene I had left over from repairing my wetsuit – I now have some nice shiny flashy bits.

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It was really tight getting in behind the front wing to tighten up the nuts – so a little masking tape did the trick.


It works!


Attention to detail – or OCD?

One of the jobs that needed doing on ROJ was to repair the cracked front valance, while doing that I noticed that one corner had been broken, which required moulding the fibre-glass into shape.

My first attempt went horribly wrong as i managed to use the wrong resin hardener. Cleaning off the sticky hairy mess was not pleasant!

I used the unbroken corner as a template and made a cardboard mould onwhich to build up the fibreglass.

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I thought that was hard work – but then i decided to rub down the scabby surface of the valance, and each time it wasn’t quite good enough, so i did it again, and again, and again – until I was able to convince myself that the car was never going to be entered into a concourse competition , and I was the only one going to get down on my hands and knees with a magnifying glass!

Next job then was to wipe down with pre-paint and paint with primer. – and it looked great.


Ordinarily i would have painted it with bog standard Hafords satin black – but i was tempted by a snazzy looking aerosol top on some Rustoleum.

The paint was superb – the nozzle wasn’t, and i wrote to Rustoleum to suggest a modification to their cap – and they very knidly sent me two free cans! (thanks Rustoleum!)

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Before fitting the valance I had to swap the horns round which i’d put on back to front – that was mega-fiddly! And I’ve just fitted the aircon radiator and oil coolers, so valance on next weekend.

We also had to take P19 for it’s MoT, service and new centre box to our friendly local mechanic Michael – who always has a yard full of interesting stuff to admire.

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And finally…

Now that ROJ is home I’m missing my trips up to the farm and missing Malcolm, Clive, Phil  and Steve and their variety of projects.

But I’ve recently found a new interesting friend.

Before Christmas we have Virgin cable TV installed – with a whizzo Tivo box – so I’ve been able to record nearly every episode of  Wheeler Dealers – so now before i head out to the garage, 20 minutes of Edd China is my inspiration!!

And thanks Edd for the tip on waterless coolant.

Space – or the lack of it!

ROJ has been home for two weeks – you’d think I’d have finished it by now.

There is the tiny irritation of having to fit in some work in between playing with the car.

There is also the big irritation of not having enough space in the garage to work round the car as I had on the farm.


I’ve set up a bench to work on – but if it rains – or is very cold, I’m driven indoors.

Stephanie hasn’t said anything about the odd bit of car appearing in the house – but the eyebrows suggest I won’t have to wait too long…

As we pushed ROJ into the garage tail first, I can only really work on the front end. So I’m repairing and fettling the glass fibre front valance. I had a battle taking off the rusted side lights (to be replaced by shiny new ones).


Using a diamond disc on the dremel I cleaned up the crack and ground down the area on the reverse side.


If it’s dry tomorrow I will apply the fibreglass patch to the back, rub it down, fill the gap and leave to dry before painting with satin black during the week.


The excitement mounts as the new James Bond film is announced – along with a new Bond Aston – the DB10!

I would love to get ROJ finished in time for the launch of the film – I reckon a great Comic Relief publicity event would be a race at Santa Pod between Daniel Craig in the DB10, and Rowan Atkinson back in ROJ… The bookies would have a field day!

This is the end…

Count to ten and start again…

So warbled Adele at the start of Skyfall – a film in which James Bond had to come to grips with gritty personal issues and major life changes – and in some way I can empathise.

The past few months of my life I’ve had to face a number of things changing, things ending and things moving on.

When I found the farm all those years ago and took my newly aquired Aston Martin V8 (AKA RO)J up to restore I never dreamt I would be there for so long – or make such good friends along the way.

But now it’s over.

The farm and buildings are to be razed and redeveloped.

When i started on my odyssy, I was welcomed into the circle by Malcolm and Clive and John and Robert. And at the end by Phil and Steve – and lately Ray and Charlie – with a huge crowd of motoring misfits in-between, all of whom showed patience and kindness to a ham-fisted amateur.

I shall miss my weekends up in Bedfordshire. There was often more beer drunk and beef barbecued than bits bolted onto ROJ – but that was half the fun.

Now the sheds are echoingly empty and the corridors of the house cluttered with packing crates.

ROJ has always been a bit of a Frankenstien’s Aston – I bought three and a half old wrecks and piles of parts – and have ended up with one rather lovely, albeit unfinished, car. It may not be all of the car driven by Rowan Atkinson, but it’s most of it!

How ROJ arrived at the farm

How ROJ arrived at the farm

The 'somewhere inbetween' shot

The ‘somewhere inbetween’ shot

How ROJ left the farm

How ROJ left the farm

My Aston Martin, my tools and all the parts are now in London – I’ve still got masses of work to do on the car – although the engine is still up in storage to be rebuilt by the professionals, but now I’ve only got to stroll out of the door at home and round the back to the garage, and I can screw on something shiny whenever I feel like it.

ROJ in pyjamas - with 24hr security guard!

ROJ in pyjamas – with 24hr security guard!

More change

With an election looming, my work with the landmines group has diminished, while other avenues are opening up.

Last week I had meetings in Barcelona and in Zagreb – didn’t see anything of Barcelona, but had a quick tour round the city of Zagreb – and you know how I love trams!

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And planes with propellors.


From now on, I really must develop a proper work life balance 49% work, 49% ROJ and sleep for the rest!

Happy Thanksgiving

Here’s a little thought for Thanksgiving.

The greatest joy and happiness I have ever experienced was afforded by people, yet the greatest pain and misery I have ever suffered was also inflicted by people.

If we all just respected, understood and treated each other with a little compassion, imagine how much suffering we could reduce in the world.

Arms Trade and Astons

“What is the point of the Arms Trade Treaty to my country – when people can’t get guns, they take pangas and chop each other” This was the quote of the day from the representative of the Central African Republic at the Arms Trade Treaty discussions the week before last – and she has a point – we need to change behaviours and beliefs as well as controlling the production and sales of weapons, and that’s a huge task.

It was a very stimulating week, and may lead to a change in direction for me in the new year. This week I am heading off to Barcelona for discussuions with a Colombian delegation about holding a seminar for central and south American states on humanitarian mine-action – followed by two days in Zagreb exploring a similar option for the Balkans.

When I get back I shall be up to the farm for my first sight of ROJ in it’s new paint.

Phil and Steve have done a fantastic job – and worked their little socks off… Here’s a little taste:

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Aztec Mayan – A Mexican supercar perhaps?

My fingernails have been gnawed to the quick waiting to see ROJ in its new paint job. To take my mind off the wait (and off the piles of work I’ve got on) Stephanie towed me off to the Yucatán Peninsula to study some Mayan ruins for a fortnight.

As a child I had a book about the Conquistadors and have long yearned to explore the ancient kindoms of the Maya and Aztecs.

I was not disappointed.

What an amazing place. The people are so friendly and welcoming, and everything worked with surprising efficiency. One does not, however, travel to Mexico for a culinary experience! Food was good and tasty, but glad not to have tortillas and black-beans for a while – Mayan Cacao however, I would fly back for anyday!

Getting off the beaten track meant that very few people we met spoke English – and as Mayan is as impenetrable a language as Icelandic – we really tested our rudimentary Spanish.

I decided it was going to be a bit warm and humid for the Indiana Jones outfit – just as well as the Mayan rain-God Chac smiled upo us in abundance!

 We started on the Caribbean at Quintana Roo – annoyinglly, I’m not medically fit for diving at the moment, so missed out on diving in the Grand Cenote, but did snorkel with the turtles  and through bat filled caves.

The great thing about travelling out of season – and under our own steam – means we avoided the tourist hordes, and for the most part had many of the ruins to ourselves.

Here’s Stephanie at one at Tulum that has been resored:


And here’s me at one that hasn’t at Cabah:


 In between gazing at piles of rubble I spotted a number of other intriguing ruins – anyone know wht this might be?

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 Saw some great American steel – managed to get a snap of only one.

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The Mexicans have a far more relaxed approach to the MoT…!


Bettle lovers would love it there.


This in the art gallery in Merida was quite fun…

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Well, enough of that – back to the ruins:

We may think we invented the ball and hoop game in Europe – but the Mayans got there first – the theory is the losing team captain was sacrificed as part of a ritual – I reckon it was because some big cohone lost a wad …

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The idea is to get a big rubber ball through the hoops.

The big Pyramid at Uxmal.


In Tulum we stayed at a great little hotel called the Posada Yum Kin – which may sound Korean – but that’s actually a Mayan name. In Merida we stayed at the Casa Mexilo – an excentric little place – more guest house than hotel, very close to the centre and full of character. In Valladolid we stayed at the Casa Qetzal – basic but comfortable and cheerful.

Everywhere we went there was music and singing – in Valladolid we joined the locals in the central square on the Sunday night and danced to a marvellous bunch of mariachis.

All in all, we liked the Yucatán



Phew – that was exhausting….

Still madly polishing bits of stainless steel trim to stick on ROJ once painted.

When I bought the first rusty wreck all those years ago (remember this one)

ABW aston2 023

I very optimistically – and extremely naively – thought that i could sand blast the chassis using this –


It’s been sittting in the workshop since, and has been very useful for the odd little job. I’ve put it to very good use recently, sand-blasting the exhaust manifolds, which I then painted with VHT and baked in the oven at 250 degrees for an hour and a half.



From this

to this:


Last week I popped over to Luxembourg to discuss some activity next year using their presidency of the EU to target MEPs and directorate staff for funding for vcitim assistance projects in conflict and post-conflict countries.

After having a tour of the EU buildings, and the Parliament Chamber, our hosts kindly gave us a tour of the old city, and then a bit of fun in the countryside involving 2CVs an Ipad and a treasure hunt. Our team lost!CIMG0028



It may be months since my last post – but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy – and ROJ has certainly not been neglected!

Work has been manic, I’ve been organising a conference on Innovation in mine-action at the Royal Geographical Society in London – speakers flying in from all over the world, Ministers to be briefed etc etc. Will be on January 20-21 if anyone’s interested in coming.

ROJ has not yet gone to the paint shop – but what I have done is sell off the scrap car and all my store of extra parts – which means I’ve got the money to spend on getting the engine sorted and into the car once painted.


I hired a man with a van and we moved all my tools and the rest of the bits back to London.


I’ve already had a couple of parts refurbished – and had a tour of the Aston Martin Heritage Works at Newport Pagnell.

Stephanie likes the DB5 front ends

Stephanie likes the DB5 front ends

The garage at home has been almost cleared and now waits for its new resident.


So while I’m waiting for ROJ to arrive I’ve been busying myself with getting the re-chromed door frames reconstructed with all new rubbers from AM.

The helpful chap at Aston Engineering told me fitting the quarter lights was a job even the professionals hate – but with plenty of silicone grease and some thin plastic sheets to guide the glass into the seal – I got it done.









And, because I’m also a bit OCD, I took the scruffy old windscreen trim clips and soaked them first in white spirit to dissolve any residual glue, then in Jenolite to disolve any traces of rust, scrubbed them with a wire brush and painted them with flexible enamel paint.



...and after

…and after


My next job will be to clean up the manifolds and paint with VHT enamel.