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Hatching the master plan

In the mean time, I was researching the possibilty of doing a full restoration. I was aware that there are parts of the wood frame that can only be accessed with the body-shell removed. I also wanted to make sure that the car was properly preserved for years to come. Apart from acquiring knowledge, the only hurdle left in my way was lack of garage space. I worked out that if the body-shell was suspended above the car, then it would just squeeze into my 7 feet 6 inches (229cm) tall garage.

In the summer of 1991, I began dismantling the car. Wings, doors, windows and interior trim. The latter takes a long time because hundreds of tacks and nails are used. Some of the edges of the body-shell are folded around the wood frame, and some areas had to be unfolded. Modern articles about working on aluminium bodywork seem paranoid about the material cracking up if you just look at it, but my own experiences with this car suggest otherwise. No problems encountered, but annealing the metal will be a good idea before refitting. The body-shell is easily lifted up by two people. Much to my relief, the car and removed shell fitted in the single garage together.

Getting side-tracked

I soon realised that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had arisen. One of the reasons why so many 2 Litre Saloons were not seen on the road, was that the factory drawings for the wood frame had been lost in a fire many years ago. Many restorers had no data to work from. A slight snag, one might say! There had been calls for some years for anyone who could produce new drawings - assuming an intact car could be found. My AC was one of the few to be both intact and very original. Now its wood frame was exposed too. I did not need scale drawings to help with my restoration, but liked the idea of helping to get many other such fine cars out and about again, rather than heading for the scrapyards, as was often the case. I knew that this would delay my restoration, and be a major additional task, but I opted to take the plunge. I would have regretted it later otherwise.

Madness in his method!

I then spent the following 6 years tearing out much of my hair (it's grown back now). It was a 6 year nightmare. A struggle to get reliable reference planes to measure from. So many errors to iron out. About 10000 dimensions to repeatedly cross-check and re-do if necessary... as it usually was! Extreme persistence eventually paid off and the drawings came together. They were done by hand in pencil. By the way, this AC has well over 300 wood frame components.

I also hoped to extend this project to include metal body components such as the steel inner panels. As I progressed, I was building up data for a possible parts list, plus detailed data on fasteners and joints to aid re-assembly. Invaluable! Word got around about this project and I ended up supplying a few photo-copies to eager restorers as I progressed. I made one big mistake though (assuming you don't consider starting this project to be a mistake?). Naive chap that I was, I decided not to do it for profit, and simply charge for the expenses of high-quality photo-copying, postage and packing. In practice, this means making a financial loss in addition to the amount of time invested which still makes my mind boggle, thinking back!

Another slight snag

Owners who got their hands on some of the drawings seemed pleased, if not delighted, to finally have data to work from. When the drawing set was nearly complete, I looked into publicising them within a club. The set covered the assembled frame minus the doors, and each component excluding roof and doors. Every dimension was shown. As I recall, I was going to charge 24 UKP (1997 money) to cover the large stack of photo-copies, postage and packaging. Today, the commercial rate for archive railway drawings is about 30 to 50 per single photo-copy of a single component, just to put the price into some perspective. So a commercial rate for my set would have run into a 4 figure sum (UKP). To be safe, I made it clear that this was a non-profit exercise in the interests of preservation, and it was probably one of the largest exercises to help save a model's existence worldwide. I was alarmed to receive a firmly worded response (to my publicity drive) claiming that my project was really a commercial one, and would be dealt with as such (with obvious implications about my alleged motives). Words still fail me!!! Maybe if I had offered the set for 2, I would be accused of profiteering? :)

Was I hopping mad? I'm not sure about hopping, but I was sufficiently upset to abandon the entire project, and lost interest in my AC. So much for promoting preservation. After that I did occasionally monitor adverts, noting that the long tradition of lapsed restorations and laid up ACs was continuing. How sad...

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