John was very interested and suggested to Brian that I should get in touch with him.
An unwelcome Surprise
Five years ago, the Garage having been completed sometime earlier, John felt ready to tackle his ‘refurbishment of the Healey 3000’ project. The first thing to do, of course, was to remove all the protective sheets of tarpaulin etc. So, accompanied by his wife Sue, who was soon to become his ‘long suffering but stalwart’ wife, marched out on to the drive and started stripping off the covering.
The first surprise was that the covering lying on top of the car itself seemed extraordinarily difficult to lift off. What should have been just a ‘flick of the wrist’ soon developed into tugging and heaving. When the covering did eventually move it became all too apparent why removing it had been so difficult.
The many years of fluctuating temperatures and England’s frequently damp atmosphere had caused ‘sweating’ between the car’s steel panels and its ‘so called’ protective coverings.
The panels had rusted and ‘welded’, if not wedded, themselves to their hugging friends, the protective sheets.
What caused all the effort to be expended in removing the covers was due to the fact that not only the sheets were being removed but also large sections of rusted body panels that had become attached to them through the process of corrosion.
I am sure that you can imagine the scene and sympathise with John and Sue in the situation that they found themselves in. Instead of contemplating a fairly labour intensive refurbishing job they were now looking at a total ‘basket case’ a virtual write off! I think most people would have taken that view, I am sure I would have done. My next action would have been to call the local breakers yard and get the mess taken away. But not John and Sue. It is most likely that they took many a deep breath and let day breaks come and go a few times before eventually deciding to reconstruct 5140FD.
In fact John told me “After I moved what was left of the car into the garage I spent nearly twelve months just looking at it wondering what on earth I was going to do with it!”
The Start Of The Project
The decision to rebuild the car was very much a joint decision, based, to some degree, on the project being a better place to invest a little money that had comes Sue’s way, than to put it in a bank to earn little interest. So, battle was joined, onward to victory, but it didn’t always seem that victory was going to be achieved. There were some tough battles to be fought, much midnight oil to be burned as well as barked knuckles and blue air.
There were some positives to be seen amongst this heap of rotten metal.. The most important one being that the chassis was in good condition. Also, all the major mechanicals were as good (or as worn) as when the car had first been laid up. John already knew that the engine required attention, if only to repair the ‘blown piston’.
The first job was to sort all the good and reusable parts from those whose life was clearly over.
John is the first to acknowledge that he was able to call upon the services of some very skilled friends and acquaintances who advised him on what the proper course of action should be. One such expert guided John towards replacing the original steel body panels with aluminium ones. This remedy appealed to John’s innate engineering values, in as much as the idea of steel and aluminium butting up to each other offended his sense of ‘rightness’ .
Even so, it wasn’t his first inclination, that was to renovate the existing panels but as he told me “When my friend and I held the front wings up to the light, it was like looking through a colander, they were so badly perforated by rust.” From that moment of ‘enlightenment’ onward, the decision to replace most of the panels, both cosmetic and structural, was an easy one to make.
Worthy of Praise
At this stage I should introduce one of John’s suppliers for whom he has nothing but praise: it isn’t the purpose of this blog to promote any particular commercial enterprise but when an organisation, by serendipity, is singled out, as in this case, then it pleases me to report what I find. So who is John’s esteemed supplier? It is non other than A.H. Spares of Southam, Warwickshire, the saviours of many a struggling Austin Healey renovator.
The car was painstakingly reassembled using as many of the original parts as possible but as mentioned above, in reality, more panels than first envisaged had to be replaced. No effort or materials were spared in making sure that this rebuilt car, was, as far is possible in the U.K.’s climatic conditions, going to resist the ravages of metal corrosion, RUST, to you and me. ‘Shot-blasting’ was the order of the day particularly of the chassis and steel wheels. No chance was going to be taken which would allow that little red devil, Mr. Rust, to come anywhere near this ‘work of love’. John had been shaken to his bones by having seen what had happened to his love when she was hidden from his eyes.
The above synopsis has, hopefully, given you a flavour of John’s ambitious project. I have tried to convey to you the passion, the resolution and even the cussedness that he had to employ to see this job through to completion. John would wish to acknowledge the tremendous support Sue gave him throughout the project; whether it was by trudging across the drive, ankle deep in snow, to take him a tray of tea and cake at midnight on a bitterly cold winter’s night, or, searching high and low for a misplaced gearbox dipstick. She was there!
The completed car is a credit to you both and I know it gives you great pleasure when you go for a run in the beautiful Worcestershire countryside on glorious sunny days like the ones that we have enjoyed this year.
Stories of intrepid restorers of cars, of all makes and models but particularly ‘Big Healeys’, abound in the many club magazines that can be found throughout the world. But what makes this story quite unique, in my view, is that it was the original owner who carried out the reconstruction and still has the car after 51 years continuous ownership. Can anyone beat that? Please let me know.
Now I will let the photos from the project tell a far more eloquent story than the one that I have related above. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words – enjoy this story!
Initial Strip down and preparation
Second Stage Preparation
Third Stage Preparation
The Proud Owner and Restorer to Life of an Austin Healey 3000Mk. II
The finished Job –
Was it worth it – Most emphatically “Yes” says John