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There are two points on which I take issue with my Haynes Manual:

  1. “The use of a traditional chassis allows for the easy removal, repair and replacement of body components”;
  2. “Refitting is simply the reverse of dismantling”.

One of the things that I’ve always liked about the Herald is its chassis. I can visualise what is supporting what and which bits will fall off, sag, bend or twist when various lumps of chassis revert to the iron oxide from which they were originally hewn. I can relate to a thin, mild steel box balancing on top of a dirty great “X”-shaped box-section girder with a wheel nailed to each corner. If you took away the bodywork everything would still work and not collapse in a heap, although it would doubtless be a notch more windy. Monocoque structures, on the other hand, are more of a mystery to me. Having a small tea tray on wheels (aka sub-frame) under the heavy bits at the back, and a slightly bigger tea tray on wheels under the heavy bit at the front is all very well, but keeping the two tea trays in close formation seems to me to be expecting rather a lot of some wafer-thin steel sheets. It seems a lot to ask even if you stick to straight lines, but eventually you might pluck up the courage to go round a corner, at which point  the maths gets a bit tricky. Not only will some bits of the tea trays try get to further apart while some try to get closer together, but they will also twist relative to each other. If there happens to a bump anywhere on your trajectory then you tea trays will also be different heights. This is Peter’s line of country, more than mine, even though he did teach me Stress Analysis IV & V back in HNC days. But this is at least Stress Analysis VI or possibly VII. Peter has PhD in this, which could be equivalent to Stress Analysis L, C or possibly even M. Suffice it to say that when it comes to rolling back nearly 60 years of rust, I’m happy that there’s a chassis involved.

Anyhoo – my beef with the Haynes manual is not the chassis, it’s the inclusion of the words “easy removal” in any sentence which also includes the word “chassis“. I’m sure that when she was 3 months, Harriet’s body was nice and easy to remove. However, my chassis (well, Harriet’s) has not seen the light of day since 1965. I appreciate that we are probably outside the warranty period, but we’re now up to visit #7, and seven days’ work does not equal “easy removal” in my book. We now have the chassis leaning up against the barn wall at a jaunty angle and all it took was …

The bits that needed to come off were:

  1. The bonnet;
  2. The roof;
  3. The “tub” (main body section);
  4. The scuttle;
  5. The rear suspension;
  6. Engine and gearbox;
  7. The front suspension.

I have already spun the tale of the bonnet removal here so, onwards and upwards (quite literally) to the roof. You may recall that getting the bonnet off turned out to be a bit of a pig. Well, getting the roof off was also a pig, but marginally less so, even though the blasted thing was only held on by a few bolts and self-tapping screws. A blunt drill plus Peter’s cold steel chisel and lump hammer got the last stubborn self-tapper out of the door post, which left one difficult bolt under the rear windscreen. Its captive nut kept spinning in its little nest of rust, but the skilful application of a Mk I shoulder blade and a sprinkling of foul language soon had that off. Why undo a nut if you can just pull the whole thing straight out through the rusty metal? All my old old “trade craft” is slowly coming back to me!

Now for the “tub”. Remarkably, all of the bolts holding the tub to the rear outriggers all came off really easily, which left another 6 holding it to the outrigger side rails. As the side rails were largely rust, some of these we could tackle just by tearing the side rail away from the chassis. In some cases bits of the outrigger just came away in our hands. A couple proved a bit more resilient but yielded in the face of a chisel and lump hammer. The last ones were problematic. We can’t use an angle grinder because we are right next to a mountain of straw – did I mention that we’re working in a barn?

Peter had bought a super/duper gadget that hadn’t been invented when I last got my hands dirty. Some people call it an oscillating saw and some call it a “Multi-Tool”, which sounds a bit like something you might have on a penknife for getting Boy Scouts out of horses’ hooves. BTW: I’m sure that when I was at school horses had hoofs but this seems to have changed recently. I am reliably informed by Stan at “the Club” that you can put it against your finger and it won’t cut it off, but he was unavailable for comment when I suggested that we give it a go. I also think that he was referring to the Multi-Tool and not the Boy Scout and/or his hooves.

The tub isn’t supposed to be joined to the scuttle, but a previous owner had got a bit carried away with the welding and decided to attach them on a slightly more permanent basis.

Fortunately, Peter’s super new tool came to the rescue and we were able to cut through the welds. In theory the tub was now free from the chassis. We knew that, we double- and triple-checked, but the top and chassis seemed unconvinced of this fact. Clearly this was a job for the Brute Squad (what do you mean, you haven’t see The Princess Bride), but it’s not all that easy to be brutal in an upwards direction when all you have to grip on to is a razor-thin rusted wheel arch. This was a show-down; something had to give. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be the wheel arches as I am quite attached to my fingers and would like to remain so. In the event of this ever not being the case I would prefer the amputation not to be carried out with a rusty wheel arch. I was also hoping that our backs would prove equal to what was shaping up to being a very unequal struggle – neither of us are in the first flush of youth, after all. I’m several flushes in and I think that Peter may have stopped counting his flushes. The thing that I was most hoping would yield was whatever unseen force of menace was stopping the tub and chassis from going their own ways. And so it came to pass. After a lot of noise we held the tub victoriously aloft! Well, 3″ more aloft than the chassis, which I consider a good result. Obstructive to the last, the tub even made the journey of 6′ from “on top of” the car to “by the side of” the car a test of strength and stamina.

I have a wonderful drawing made by a schoolgirl in the 1940’s which I used when I was learning Ancient Greek (don’t ask), which illustrates the prepositions with a collection of sketches involving a hunter and a lion. It has a series of amusing pictures showing “around the lion”, “towards the lion”, “near the lion” and so on, rather predictably ending in “inside the lion”. I think I could maybe do a similar thing with pictures of Peter, myself and various lumps of Triumph Herald with captions like, “above the chassis”, “near the chassis” etc. I’ll see if I can dig out the picture and post it. If I were to do so, then the picture below just about shows the tub beside the chassis and the scuttle in front of the chassis.

Once the tub was off we had a good view of the chassis and the rear suspension. All of the chassis that we can see looks sound, which is good news. The thought of tackling the scuttle filled us with dread – we both thought that this would be much the hardest thing to get off. The rear suspension, on the other hand, looked so inviting and relatively simple to get off that we thought we would give ourselves a psychological boost by tackling that next. I was chatting to Peter (a different Peter) at Birmingham Heartlands the other day about this project and mentioned that I hadn’t played about with cars for 40 years. He predicted that I would soon remember why I had stopped 40 years ago. Well Peter, you were right!

Having done it, I now know the/a way to remove the rear suspension from a Triumph Herald. However, at the beginning of this adventure, neither of us had the slightest idea. Some things were obvious – clearly we had to disconnect the prop shaft. Some things were easy – the odd one or two bolts came off without drama. Some things were “ordinary level” difficult. i.e. they took a long time and required Peter’s chisel and lump hammer. Some things were confusing – I struggled to work out which bits of the linkage might be under tension/compression as I really didn’t want the whole thing to be launched through the barn roof when the last nut was removed. A few things gradually became obvious, rather than being obvious from the start. The only things stopping the diff from coming off were the drive shafts so of course they’d have to come off, but it still looked to me like nothing should be under any load, so the diff should at least be able to wiggle about a bit. The fact that it wouldn’t budge was convincing me that the dirty great transverse leaf spring was under some considerable load.

The spring plate that I was v. nervous about removing

Undoing the universal joints holding the drive shafts to the diff was easy enough, but there wasn’t enough clearance to pull the bolts out, so we still couldn’t drop the diff. We tried jacking up the left wheel to see if that made a difference, then the right wheel, then the diff itself, but all to no avail. There was no choice but to take off the top plate which holds the leaf spring to the top of the diff and see if that had any effect. We had to some jiggling with a jack under the suspension link to make quite sure that the last nut (out of 6) wasn’t under any load before we took it and the spring retaining plate off. That made all the difference. The diff and drive shafts dropped a couple of inches and a bit of levering and cursing finally got it out. After that we could lift off the spring, complete with drive shafts and dampers. By crikey, that little lot weighed a ton.

Now for the scuttle. Here it is after removal – the plastic bottle you can see is a previous owner’s attempt at installing windscreen washers!

Thanks to Martin @ Leeds for Rotating the Picture for me!

How did we get it off? There are very few bolts holding it on but none of them were amenable to sockets, spanners etc. Some we just had to smash off with the chisel and lump hammer. For some we were able to cut the chassis outriggers from around the bolts. Two were extremely stubborn and in a position where we could neither drill nor swing a hammer. By this time, Peter had got an improved super-duper Multi-Tool and that was able to tackle one of them. It should have been able to tackle both but the other side of the car is right next to the straw in the barn and I think that burning a chap’s barn down might take the edge off our friendship. We had a go but there were just too many sparks for us to feel safe, so we had no choice but to just slog away at the outriggers with Peter’s chisel.

Eventually, as you can see, it came off. Then Peter did a really strange thing. I’ve known and worked with Peter for well over 30 years and guess I know him as well as anyone, but he truly surprised me – he did a “High Five“! This is a man who hadn’t had a fish finger until fairly recently, who still makes tea with tea leaves, and drinks it from a cup and saucer. For Goodness’ sake, the man still uses a butter dish! A high five! Well, there never were such times, as Peter himself often says. I saw him heading towards me with his palm raised high and had a split second to work out what on earth he had in mind. He was either going to do a high five or thump me and both seemed equally unlikely. Instinct kicked in and overrode the initial fight or flight response (I could have thumped him and/or ran away) and I responded in the traditional way, but it was touch and go for a moment.

Our last visit was a brief one – we just had to remove the engine and gearbox. This is quite simple with a Herald even with the body still on. With the body off it is as simple as undoing 8 bolts, all of which are so covered in oil that they are unlikely to rust. I had bought a new engine hoist for the occasion and Peter rigged up the old seat belts to use as a cradle. The whole lot just lifted out without drama. The hardest part of the day was assembling the hoist, which took an hour and a half.

Now that winter is approaching, a barn is no place to be working for chaps of our age. We are also about to enter the phase of the project which mostly involves angle grinding and welding, which we can’t do in the barn. Our plan is to take the chassis, suspension and diff home where we can work on them in relative comfort for the next 6 months or so. We ended the day by piling all the bits that will be staying in the barn into an approximate car shape.

“Refitting is simply the reverse of dismantling”

I will keep you posted on progress with the chassis and with my attempts to learn how to weld. I have put in a request to Santa for a MIG welder, but it appears that Mrs Santa maintains a list. Having checked it (twice) it seems as if Santa’s sack is deficient in MIG welders to the tune of one. For those of you with long memories, if Santa does send me a MIG welder I will be sure to read the instructions before I use it!