The problem with taking a car to bits is remembering exactly how it all fits together and ensuring that vital pieces aren’t missed out when it comes to the rebuild – not helped in my case by doing the whole thing in a domestic garage and therefore being pressed for space. That said, progress is being made and, having shipped off the body to the ‘Polite Bodyshop’ (yes, they are!) in Gloucester for a complete bare metal re-spray, I’ve spent the past month stripping, cleaning and re-painting the chassis and the remaining mechanicals.
Re-assembly has unquestionably been made much easier by having access to a couple of Triumph/BMC parts catalogues which list every single component down to the last nut, bolt and washer, and illustrate in most cases how they all fit together. Although I’m re-using most of the serviceable parts, I’ve decided to replace most of the nuts, bolts and washers, which I feel lifts the whole restoration and will certainly make the next rebuild that much easier – if that ever comes to pass.
With most of the running gear now re-fitted, and the engine and gearbox once again mounted on the chassis, I’m starting to convince myself that real progress is being made and we may even be on track to have the car back on the road in the early Spring.
Having satisfied myself that the engine actually runs and isn’t a basket case, it was time to remove it from the car in preparation for complete dismantling. The last time I had to lift an engine I foolishly decided to do it over Christmas – suffice to say that things didn’t go completely according to plan and the Christmas holiday nearly turned into a disaster. This time, however, things were different.
The biggest surprise about the Triumph so far has been the ease with which I’ve been able to take the car apart. You’d think that after 25 years (apparently the last rebuild was in 1989) most things would be rusted solid, but perhaps the fact that its been off the road for the last 12 years has made more of a difference than I’d expected – anyway the fact is that with liberal applications of WD40, everything so far seems to be coming apart pretty easily. The engine and gearbox came out ‘sweet as a nut’; no drama, no grazed knuckles, in fact not so much as a single swearword. Two hours steady work and there it was, sitting on the garage floor waiting to be stripped down before being sent off to be chemically cleaned. So far so good.
Before starting to take the Triumph to bits it seemed like a good idea to see if I could get the engine running, so that I’d at least know whether there was anything catastrophic that would need sorting during the rebuild. As the previous owner had told me that it hadn’t run for at least 12 years it was fairly obviously not simply going to be a case of charging the battery (which, by the way, was knackered) and turning the key.
I’d already removed the petrol tank as it was clear that any 12 year old fuel remaining would be completely stale and useless, so a gallon can of the amber nectar was perched just beneath the fuel pump in readiness for the ‘great start-up’. Getting a spark out of the ignition system, however, took a little longer to resolve; having first removed the add-on electronic ignition system fitted by the previous owner I then spent several frustrating days replacing first the coil, then the condenser and finally the plug leads before I finally worked out (with a little help from Google) that I needed to remove the now redundant ballast resistor from the ignition circuit. Job done, turn the key for a few seconds, and……………. she lives!
Wonderful! Now down to the slightly long-winded business of stripping out the engine compartment in preparation for removing the engine and gearbox.
Yes, I admit it, I seem to be developing an addiction for old cars. Well, to be honest I don’t think that its a new thing; after cutting my motoring teeth on cars from the 1960s, and having owned an MGB for nearly 30 years, I think that I’ve always had a strong affection for vehicles that predate the modern era of complex electronics and a hankering for cars that you can fix with a spanner and hammer when they go wrong.
The latest addition to the Ewbank stable is a late 1973 Triumph GT6 which I bought ‘unseen’ in eBay and collected from the previous owner in Kent earlier this week. The bodywork of cars from that era has a horrible tendency to rot really badly but fortunately this one was substantially rebuilt with lots of new panels in the late 80s and so far (fingers crossed) it seems to be in really good condition. There are a few bits of rust to be seen and the paintwork will have to be completely stripped for a complete re-spray but hopefully there won’t be too much need for welding or panel replacement.
I spent yesterday removing 4 or 5 gallons of stale petrol from the tank in preparation for its removal later today. I also took the spark plugs out and turned the engine over, and was relieved to find that it isn’t seized. The first big job will be to extract the engine and gearbox and to take the block down to a local engineering works to get the bores and bearings checked. All very exciting!