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Our first stab at our new project was planned for Tuesday, 11th of September. I provided the flasks and the packed lunch, while Peter brought all the tools. I had bought a couple of pairs of overalls and so, looking like a couple of dodgy plumbers we headed for the barn to start our enormous venture.

We had a plan:

  1. Get her in the air
  2. Take the body off

We first needed to get the lady up on jacks. I had bought some cheapish axle stands and Peter had a small trolley jack, so it was time to get our hands dirty – for me this would be the first time in over 30 years. Crawling underneath with some torches quickly revealed that there was very little metal left under there which could take much weight. The meat of the Herald chassis is a couple of box-sections forming an elongated “X” along the centre of the car. To that are welded 8 outriggers giving a rectangle that the body is bolted to. The problem is that the outriggers rust away over the years/weeks. Ours were so bad that you could crumble them in your hands so they were clearly not any use jacking points. There did seem to be some substantial metal left where a couple of “U” bolts hold the anti-roll bar to main chassis, so that was our first choice for the front and up she went. We had less metal and consequently fewer jacking options at the back. There is a cross-member which runs underneath the differential, so we went for that.

So, after a bit of grunting and/or groaning, our lass was off the ground but not looking overly steady. Because all of the metal was near the centre line of the car, so were the axle stands. I wasn’t going to be happy spending hours underneath that until we could get the stands positioned further apart. We had a wander round the farm looking for any lumps wood of would that might help. The next barn along had a couple of good lengths of 2 x 2 which were ideal, along some small blocks that would help us get some extra height out of the jack, which was quite small. On our return to HQ (barn #1) we were able to get the lengths of timber laterally across the chassis which not only spread the weight but let us position the axle stands wider apart. We did the same at the back and then I was happy that she was safe enough to work under. Right, let’s get the wheels off then have a tea break. Er, we don’t have a wheel brace! Perhaps we’ll have the tea break first.

Fortunately, in the boot we found a socket attached to a very long (18″) handle and the socket fitted the wheel nuts. I had intended to crack the wheel nuts before getting her up on sticks but had forgotten in all the excitement of looking for some metal underneath the car. I was a little concerned that the torque I was able exert using that socket and long handle might lever the car right back off the axle stands, but an improvised chock under each wheel did the trick. So 10 minutes later we had the wheels off and were able to get a reasonable look at her innards. Oh dear! Time for another tea break.

Right, time to start phase 2 of operation “Lost Cause” – taking the body off. In theory this is pretty simple on a Herald. There are about 20 bolts which hold the body to the chassis, but a few things need to happen before we get them out. I had printed out the relevant pages from an official Triumph service manual that I had found on the web and so we divided up the tasks between us. Most of this was pretty simple stuff:

  1. Disconnect electrical cables near the front bumper
  2. Disconnect the fuel pump, choke, throttle cable, heater control valve cable, …
  3. Uncouple the handbrake compensator. This was bit fiddly because it’s underneath the car, right slap-bang in the middle of the transmission tunnel, partially hidden by the propshaft. It looks a bit like a “Y”-shaped yoke where the cable from the handbrake splits into two, one for each rear wheel. The most awkward part of this operation though was working out which bit had to be disconnected from what. Still, we just kept disconnecting things until we were able to envisage which bits would stay attached to the chassis and which bits would stay with the body.
  4. Remove the bonnet

This is where things started to get painful. I’m writing this a few weeks after the event and so, (spoiler alert) we did eventually get the bonnet off, but even with the mechanism in my hands I cannot fathom its workings. Bonnet removal looked liked it would be straightforward: whip off the bumper overriders, remove 2 springs then undo 3 bolts on each side. Ta-da, Hey Presto, Abracadabra, Alakazam etc! Not even close. After a couple of hours we were able to undo 5 of the 6 bolts. But removing a bolt requires a) undo the nut and b) withdraw the bolt. So we have 5 out of 6 nuts undone, but no amount of whacking with a lump hammer would shift the bolts. They had obviously grown used to being in these holes since 1965 and had no intention of budging.

On the side with most light (furthest away from the stack of straw in the barn) we were able to work out that it was possible to lever the plates held in place by the bolts out of the way and so remove the hols from the bolt, rather than the bolt from the hole. This left one side of the bonnet hanging free but the last bolt steadfastly remaining in place. We did waste a few minutes with a blunt hacksaw before we decided that the only way this baby was coming out was with the aid of an angle grinder. So, add battery-powered angle grinder to the shopping list (did I mention that we have no electricity in the barn?) and move on to the next task.

  1. Remove the seats
  2. Remove the sills

Surely removing the seats should not be problematic? Well, if all of the bolts attach to captive nuts under the floor pan and all of the captive nuts have rusted solid, then yes, it will indeed be problematic. In fact, I am very rapidly coming to the opinion that every single job, no matter how trivial, has the potential to turn into a saga. Peter got the seats out without too much trouble but only by removing them from the frames which held them to the floor. Between us we got one of those out but the other was a different design and we couldn’t work out how it was stuck to the floor. We’ll put that off for our next visit.

Removing one of the sills was simplified by a) several of the self-tapping screws holding it in being missing and b) the metal into which these screws were fastened having largely decomposed. So the first sill almost fell off of its own accord. Things were going well on the second until I got to couple of screws that just wouldn’t budge. This would take the application of “Easyouts” (aka spiral flute screw extractors). As I don’t have any, this is another job to put off until after a visit to the shops.

That was about it for the first day. We’d made a start and drunk some tea. We had won a couple of the early skirmishes but had failed miserably in the bonnet-removal department. Still, we had both got our hands dirty and it had been a beautiful warn day with clear blue skies. It was almost like the “old days” apart from the rust and the straw. Firstly, no matter how old or bad an aircraft’s airframe gets it never goes rusty and secondly, I never once worked in a hangar next to a hay stack. I may have left work many times covered in oil and grease, but never covered in straw like a Worzel Gummidge lookalike.

One thing that did surprise me was quite how physical the day had been – the next day my whole body ached. What a great day!