There is only so much that you can do in a barn with no electrical power supply and a built-in haystack; grinding and welding are definitely not on the menu. Apart from that, winter was fast approaching and an open barn out in the fens is no place to be in the cold months. You might think that taking an old car to bits is reliving my childhood, and to a certain extent it probably is, but there are limits! I remember many winters working outside on aircraft when it was so cold that I would literally get stuck to the wing with ice and those are memories that I have no burning desire to relive. I no more want to get stuck to a Triumph Herald than I did a Canberra. So, Harriet had to come home. The plan was to bring her bare bones back to “chez e-Quip” where we could get down to some serious iron fighting. Richard the Builder (whose favourite spanner size is “angle grinder”) was recruited as Transport Manager for the day and it only took a couple of trips to get her home: one for the chassis and one for the engine/gearbox, rear suspension, diff etc.
Looking at the front elevation of my house you could be forgiven for thinking that we had a double garage – the perfect place for Harriet to spend her winter while we hacked off her rusty bits. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago the present Mrs e-Quip thought that a “sewing room” would be a good idea, so as not to clutter the “craft room” with sewing paraphernalia. Now you might think that as we have N + 1 bedrooms and all N children have flown the nest, that there were a number of possible candidate spaces for this. However, it seems that all of the bedrooms had to stay as pristine shrines to the aforementioned absentee children, just in case they ever needed/wanted to come home and therefore none of them are for suitable for sewing. I did suggest that, prior to the industrial revolution (after which, said children would have been dispatched t’mill PDQ), the textile industry relied on families spinning, weaving and possibly the odd bit of stitchery, all from their own homes. Who knows, perhaps when Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny, Mrs Hargreaves insisted that they converted the garage into a spinning room just in case the kids ever wanted to come back for the weekend. Unsurprisingly, my appeal to history fell on deaf ears. Offered the choice of moving house or losing the garage, I caved. Not a big deal, I thought at the time. We never actually used the garage for anything related to motoring anyway, and preparing it for the builders would allow me throw away all of my old tools that I hadn’t used for the thick end of forty years.
So, what’s to be done with Harriet now she’s home? I still have a remnant of garage: a wide, 5′ strip squished between the sewing room and the now-redundant garage doors. There’s enough space there for the engine and gearbox along with the rest of the gubbins, but what about the chassis? In her usual, dramatic way, Mrs e-Quip immediately suggested building a garage in the garden. I did mention that had we built the bloody sewing room in the bloody garden then we would still have a bloody garage. Not only that, but if we built a bloody car in the bloody back garden, how the hell would we get the bloody thing out when we had bloody finished? Perhaps we could renovate an old helicopter and fly the thing out! She pointed out that she was “brainstorming” and we shouldn’t be rushing to make value-judgements at this early stage in the process, and please would I moderate my bloody language.
We have a perfect, chassis-sized space at the side of the house, tucked away behind the shed, so while the project manager continued with her detailed analysis of the problem, we stuck Harriet there.
This looks like what we need to do over the next year:
- Remove the front suspension units
- Remove the steering arm and anti-roll bars
- Amputate all of the outriggers
- Clear away all of the rust so we can see if there is any hidden nastiness
- Repair the visible nastiness
- Shot blast, prime and paint the whole lot
- Rebuild and refit the front & rear suspension
- Rebuild and refit the steering and brakes
- Get rid of those plant pots
That little lot should keep us busy. Out of that list, the most problematic bit is “repair the visible nastiness”. Much of the chassis is in fairly good condition, but the visible nastiness is pretty nasty.
I didn’t want to do anything major without Peter around to take the blame, so over the Christmas period I entertained myself by switching between surface rust removal (power drill + various wire brushes) and front suspension removal (angle grinder + lump hammer + dirty great cold chisel). It turns out that there is more to removing the front suspension that just removing all of the visible nuts and bolts. The upper wishbone is fixed to a turret which bolts onto the chassis while the lower wishbone bolts directly to the chassis. Even once all of the nuts and bolts have been undone the turret itself prevents the bolts from being taken out, which means that the entire turret has to come off. Two of the bolts which hold the turrets on go straight through the chassis into captive nuts. That must have seemed like a good idea to some Herbert at Coventry back in the early 1960’s, “I know, let’s put a really big, important captive nut inside the chassis box section. Obviously it’ll never go rusty, but if it does, then all you’ll have to do is cut open the actual chassis to get at it and then refabricate a whole new section of chassis“. It was possibly around then that his mate chimed in with, “... and as it takes all of the braking loads, let’s put another box section actually inside the chassis at that point to make it really strong. After all, like you said, it’ll never go rusty anyway and if someone is going to have to make up a new chassis section, they might as well make up another box section at the same time“.
Note to Self: If you think that you have removed all of the nuts and bolts from a front suspension unit and have started walloping it with a large lump hammer to get it off – if it hasn’t moved after half an hour, check that you have actually removed all of the nuts & bolts.
Removing the surface rust was actually quite therapeutic. It didn’t require any brains, just patience and several layers of clothing (it was very cold in December). The only annoyance was that the chassis was covered in many years’ worth of underseal which had to be scraped off. It was only after noticing tarry black splodges all over the house that I checked the soles of my work boots. Oops!
So, that’s the suspension, steering arm etc. off and pretty much all of the surface rust gone. If you look carefully you can actually see some bright metal, as well as the original red primer.
The next thing to do was to cut off the old outriggers. There is nothing even remotely salvageable here and several companies still make them. The plan was to cut them off fairly close to the chassis and then grind off the welds. Nothing complex here, just iron-fighting.
In case you’re wondering what my neighbours think of this mess, this is all tucked away on the side of e-Quip Towers, shielded by an old stable wall and some foliage. She’s normally covered with a tarpaulin and so should have no effect on local house prices.
Now starts the most complex part of this bit of the project, repairing the nastiness. One picture doesn’t show the full extend of said nastiness, but this one might come close.
Naturally, we would like to keep as much original metal as possible, so rather than diving straight in with an angle grinder, we thought that a sensible approach would be to gradually remove bits of jagged metal until we got close to something shiny, and then decide what to do. It was only by doing this that we were able to work out the design of the chassis box section and how it was originally made.
It looks like there are three separate sections to repair:
- A relatively short, straight section (to the left in the picture above);
- A short, curved section;
- A long, straight section.
The first two sections are simply 18 swg (1.2 mm) made up of a large “C” section with a smaller “C” section inside it to make a box with two flanges. You can see from the diagram below, which just shows the clean metal left, that the majority of the bottom of each “C” (or “U”, depending on how you look at at) has rusted away, leaving two “L” sections.
We could just make up two new “L” sections and weld them to the top. We might do that, but I’m not convinced that this will be strong enough, given that we are only talking about 18 swg steel.
Peter is the stress man so I’ll leave the final decision with him. If it comes to it we might make up a new box section to sit inside our four “L”s. Either way, we have a solution, so we’ll come back to this once we’ve sorted out the harder problems.
The long, straight part of the chassis is the most difficult thing to repair. Because this section takes both steering and braking loads, Triumph made it significantly beefier.
The nasty-looking mess you can see in the middle is/was a spacer to stop the bolts holding the front suspension turret on from squishing the chassis section. We’ll have to make another of those.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, there is also a problem where this section meets (or used to meet) a cross-member holding the two sides of the chassis together.
This picture also shows the channel which the suspension turret nails on to – it’s the upside-down “U” with two dirty great bolt holes in the top. There are two of these and we need to get them off so that we can fit the new section in, always supposing that we can work out how to make the new section in the first place. In theory it should just be a case of grinding off the welds but they seem to be a lot smaller than the welds that held the outriggers on and I’m not convinced that my grinding skills are sufficiently well-honed to let me do this without damaging the channel. I think I’ll let Peter do that so that he gets the blame when it all goes wrong!
When I originally estimated that it would take a year to sort out the chassis I thought that might have been overly conservative. Now I’m not so sure. I’ll keep you posted with how our welding skills are progressing along with our adventures in box section fabrication.