Category Archives: ROJ – The Rowan Atkinson Car

Restoring the car driven by Rowan Atkinson in the 1990s Barclaycard adverts.

When worlds collide

My life consists of several separate worlds – family, work, travel and old cars..

Each of these worlds waxes and wanes and now and again they rub against each other, and sometimes overlap.  But just at the moment they are crashing into each other

I made the decision after the election that I would take a step back from the political work and do more on the car – and for a while that worked – but best laid plans….

Progress is being made on ROJ – the engine is happily syphoning money out of my account, the block and heads are at the specialists being rebored and reground – , and though at glacial pace, I am making progress on the body work.

It was brilliant having Angus here for a few days – we had some father/son bonding hanging the driver’s door and adjusting the window frame.

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The frame was an absolute bugger – there are five brackets with eleven bolts that each need to be delicately adjusted so that the frame lines up – then there is the stainless window rubber finisher to get exactly right, and the window regulator motor to engage.

Now that the door is done I have to readjust the rear window – and redress the roofline above the door and down the a pillar. Three steps forward and two back.

Two of my worlds overlapped in an unexpected way recently – an IED proof vehicle manufacturer I have dealings with invited me to their Piccadilly showroom opening, at which they had some of their other wares – Lambourgini Huracán being one!  Great fun, and excellent champaigne.

 

The Heart of the Beast

For the past 10 years the mighty V8 engine has sat on it’s stand waiting to be recommissioned – and that time has now come.

At the first inspection we discovered that the engine had been rebuilt once before – and not particularly well. To be brutally frank it had been butchered.

A couple of weeks back, we stripped the engine down yet again – this time for the heads to be hardened and the block to be rebored and repaired. When they come back from the machine shop we’ll be putting the engine back togather and thence into the car itself.

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On the car itself I’ve been working on odd little things like the side wing vents. There are two aluminium  baffles which had pretty well corroded away – so I made new ones.

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The wiring loom for the engine bay comes up behind the rear wheel and over an exposed metal edge – so I used a piece of rubber glass channel to avoid any chafing.

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I’ve also been cleaning up various bits and pieces, including loads of fiddly carb parts.

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I’m very impressed with Stephanie’s jewellery cleaner!

“Will it fit? No it won’t”

“Can we make it fit? Yes we can.”

I would like to personally thank Aaron Kaufman of Gas Monkey Garage for those really encouraging words. In fact, I shall paint them large on my garage wall.

Neither chassis nor bodywork on ROJ are as they left the factory, so it is no surprise that I have to work to make everything fit back together.

The sill on the drivers side now fits after much fettling. When he did the paint job, Steve had helpfully made a couple of brackets to attach the front wings to the inner sill – but I had to remove them and gently encourage the wing closer in along it’s lower edge without cracking the paint finish.

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The sill needs a damn good polishing before I screw it on.

Classics in a classic city

Last week we spent our wedding anniversary in Amsterdam – one of my favourite European cities.

My memory is a little vague though – I don’t remember my last visit being so fraught with danger.

Not since Hanoi have I felt so intimidated by so many people on two wheels – The Dutch are usually such nice friendly people, but put them on bicycles…!

Of course along with the architecture, the art galleries and the museums, there was also the odd old car.

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And the odd old aeroplane…

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As they were just around the canal corner from our superbly situated hotel, I had to check out the Diamonds are Forever locations.

Tiffany Case lived on the third floor

Tiffany Case lived on the third floor

Mrs Whistler was pulled from the canal here

Mrs Whistler was pulled from the canal here

The Skinny Bridge, from where Mr Wint and Mr Kidd  admired their handiwork

The Skinny Bridge, from where Mr Wint and Mr Kidd admired their handiwork

We had an excellent view from our room:

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Back in London, and back to work…..

How time flies

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were last watching the racing at Crystal Palace – two Astons this year, and a pleasant picnic with friends and family.

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And one for Phil – I told you you should have come!

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I’ve finished the driver’s side B-pillar and now need to get the stainless steel sill fitted – I’ve already trimmed it to accommodate the welding at the bottom of the pillar and now need to make the front wing fit better.

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Adventures good and bad…

It appears that the window trim is supposed to have a sharp end – standards in the 70s were not as they shuld have been! Thank you Keane (my Amero/Aussie Aston guru chum from the AMOC forum).

So I’ve put it all back again and started on the driver’s door.

Getting the door frame and glass into the door meant taking the door off the car, which has given me the chance to dress the B-pillar and get the SS sill back on.

Of course because we welded in a repair section at the bottom of the B-pilla,r the sill doesn’t fit. So this week I’ll be fettling it to fit.

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Fitting the new window rubbers was a good half day’s work – the new window seals had to be stretched out and glued to the stainless trims – first peeling off the old rubbers and cleaning away the old glue.

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So right now the door is off with the frame and glass fitted – the b-pillar is ready for colour coat and clear coat, and the sill is ready to be fettled to fit.

The good adventure…

Last weekend I had a happy little adventure. I was due to go up to Newport Pagnell to make arrangements for the engine rebuild, but Stephanie was otherwise engaged. A friend of mine from the Bentley Drivers’ Club told me he was travelling up for the Works Auction and Concours and was driving a Lagonda Wedge – he offered me a lift.

The Lagonda belongs to Roger Dudding – owner of the legendary Studio 434, and i had the chance for a quick drool round some of his collection before we set off.

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Had to take this – before Dulwich we lived next door to Madame Tussauds just off Baker Street…

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And this is what we drove up in…

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…and good to see an old friend in the works department (not in the auction)

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So what was the bad adventure?

Well, getting back to London I began to feel unwell. Thinking I had another kidney stone on the way I went into A&E at UCH and found myself in for the week with an acutely inflamed colon. Frustrating as i had a lot to do last week following the election – and also not being able to play with the car!

And finally…

A piece of very exciting news – I have a new colleague. One Mr Bond! UNMAS Ambassador

Troublesome trim

By now I had been looking forward to having the rear windows in and to be starting on the door windows.

True to form with this car – something went wrong and i am still battling with the stainless steel trim sections.

Having got them back into shape using the MDF template, I screwed them in and fitted the windows – and discovered that the rear trim sections under the windows were splayed outwards.

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So I removed the windows and manipulated the trims into place – but found another annoying issue.

The way the trims were made means there is a small hole and a sharp point where they were folded. This must have been there when I got the car, but I’m amazed that Aston Martin did not address this detail issue before it left the factory!

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So – should I try and modify it so the trim sits flush with the bodywork, or should I try and plug the hole?

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All the trimmings

Working in a confined space I now have to be very methodical about screwing the shiny bits back onto ROJ – and each job has a certain order.

Just lately I’ve been working towards fitting the rear side windows.

To do so:

I firstly drilled out the zinc plating from the seat belt fixing points in the B pillars – and then tap them;

Secondly I had to drill the holes for the coat hooks also on the B pillars;

This was followed by measuring and cutting  some new leather and glueing them to pillars;

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The next job would have been to fit the stainless steel trim pieces that go round the door and window apertures.

But here I encountered a snag.

The passenger side one was fine – but the driver’s side didn’t fit.

My first thought was that when I put the new roof on ROJ (remember, the old one had been cut out with a tin opener for Rowan to eject his boss through) I had made a mistake with lining everything up. Alternatively, I wondered if I had managed to get the trim pieces from the other cars muddled up. But then Stephanie came and gave me a hand and we worked out that in fact the trim itself had been distorted at some point during the years it had been off the car.

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Without access to a bead roller I had to think of another way of shrinking it back into shape. So some thick MDF , a pencil and a jigsaw were called into service.

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Making sure the template fitted perfectly with a sanding block and elbow grease;

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I screwed the trim to the template.

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Using a rounded piece of MDF – and wearing gloves and goggles in case anything sprang back unexpectedly, I worked the curve round the form and screwed it down as i went.

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The resulting fit – even if i say so myself – is excellent.

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I shall leave the trim screwed to the form few a few days to let it rest before finally fixing the trim to the car – and then the window.

Smiley face

All those years ago when I stripped ROJ’s bodywork off  the chassis this was the sad picture I was faced with:

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Well, he’s looking a lot happier now.

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No more landmines

I wish that that was true – it will take decades to rid the world of the deadly legacy of landmines – but with the dissolution of Parliament yesterday, the all party parliamentary group on landmines that I created three years ago came to an end too.

It did what it was created to do – in fact it was far more successful than I had first hoped.

This doesn’t mean I can hang my hat up – there are new, albeit related challenges around the corner. And work will continue to keep me from spending all my time playing with ROJ.

 

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:
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/151620822402?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

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.

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It works!