KDA 132 Rebuild and Restoration

JTM50 was a tired old car that had been stored for more than 20 years and, as result, was in poor but original condition. Therefore it was much easier to restore. KDA132 had already been “restored” allegedly by a respected company. The story was that after several years and tens of thousands of pounds, the owner had visited from the States to determine progress. The chassis work had been done quite well but the interior had been sold along with the water pump! The car was hastily uplifted to another company to finish the job and replacements purchased from a well know second hand parts supplier in the USA. It is unclear who finished the car but they made a terrible job of it.

In this condition KDA132 was occasionally driven to and from Scotland and it also took part in one of the Jordan Rallies. Subsequently the engine failed and was rebuilt by Hillier Hill (a well regarded R-R specialist) and Norman Geeson supplied a new rear axle. Not surprisingly the owner grew tired of endless expense and a not terribly impressive result.

The car had been re-registered OSV173, was painted Black and red in cellulose, had black carpets, grey headlining, dark maroon seats and Oxtail soup coloured woodwork. None of the doors fitted properly nor did the sunshine roof and the radio was missing and so on. It looked terrible but it drove and rode beautifully, so muggins bought it.

The inside was completely removed, the gearbox rebuilt, the floor replaced with a good second hand one and the interior wiring was replaced. After having removed all the windows and external trim, the car was taken to a body shop for a major rebuild.

The paint was stripped off, the sills and the front wings were removed, as were the doors and the sunshine roof. The door hinges were rebuilt and re-pinned, the B posts were remade, the doors were re-skinned, the spare wheel cover was remade, the outer rear wheel arches were remade and much of the boot floor was replaced.

The sills consist of three parts; an inner, a diagonal brace and the outer visible part. In addition to this there are extra bracings for body mounts and the lower part of the B post. The previous idiots, who replaced the sills about 6 years ago, had simply cut straight through all of this with a disc cutter! To make matters worse, their failure to leave any drain holes or to use cavity wax meant that nearly as much restoration was necessary this time as there had been before.

The car now looks as good as a new one and should last longer without rust problems because modern paint is better and because everything is coated, internally and externally (where applicable) and very liberally, with cavity wax.

Once I had the car back I made new carpets, re-fitted all the woodwork that had been restored by PW Cooper and made and fitted a new headlining. A new stainless steel exhaust system was supplied by Service Centre Systems in Lincolnshire and fitted, with great difficulty by me! Fitting exhausts to these cars is extremely difficult as there is so little space.

The RREC helped me recover the original registration number and KDA132 did its first weekend with the Club Register in September 2004. Work continues and the car is improving as I do it, but it will be a few years before all evidence of previous restoration is completely eradicated.

I must say that whenever I see “totally restored”, “body off restoration” or a similar claim in an advertisement, I almost always discount it on the basis that it will cost twice as much to put it right as it would a car that has that is just worn out!

There are specialist restorers whose work is exemplary but some are hopeless and others are good in parts and dangerous in others.

My advice to anyone paying to have his car restored is to be extremely careful to research the company you have chosen before you let them near your car. When they do have it, keep a careful watch on time spent, part prices and the quality of the work.

Norman Geeson has written extensively on the work necessary to resuscitate his car and it can be read in Owners Stories

I recommend that you read it carefully as what was wrong with his is pretty much what is wrong with them all. It is difficult to assess the condition of these cars without considerable experience with the result that there are many around that look very nice but still need a great deal spending on them to get them right.

ASHLEY JAMES