The last visit ended on a cliff-hanger, could we get the bonnet off? I suppose I had somewhat lessened the dramatic tension by already mentioning that we did eventually succeed. This gives me a chance to indulge in a bit of literary flash-forward then flash-right-back-again. Instead of the cliff-hanger question being, “Will our hero manage to stop the stagecoach before it plunges off the clifftop into the ravine below?”, it is more like, “Our hero manages to …..! Watch next week to find out how”.

The prequel to this sequel involved a visit to the shops to buy:

  • A cordless angle grinder
  • A cordless drill
  • Some “easyouts

“Cordless” because we are working in a barn without power. Peter was in charge of comestibles this week: cheese and pastrami rolls. That’s cheese rolls and pastrami rolls, not rolls containing both cheese and pastrami but I don’t suppose you needed to know that. Then again, I’m not entirely sure that anyone needs to know all of this nonsense. I suppose there is some cathartic in being able to write and use more exclamation marks than would normally be acceptable. I brought my own tea! Peter is good at posh tea made with leaves and sipped from a cup and saucer, but his bibendary skills don’t really extend to what I would call “proper” tea. Still, he has so many other skills that we can make allowances for this small deficit.

Back to the plot. We now have an angle grinder and the one last remaining bolt holding the bonnet on is about to meet it’s match. Or at least it would be if the angle grinder would fit into the space where the bolt is sitting, which it doesn’t. Not to worry, I have a drill and Peter has a cold steel chisel so we should be able to combine the two, drill into the nut then set about it with the chisel. Still no joy. Unfortunately Peter has “a” chisel, not “a selection of” chisels. The one that he has is XXL and there’s not enough room to get the chisel to where the bolt is. Hmm, time for some head scratching, and not just because of all the straw laying around.

Now we’re getting to the reason for the title of this week’s effort, “Right Said Fred”. There will be those amongst you who remember Bernard Cribbins and this ditty from the 1960’s:

Charlie had a think, and he thought we ought to take off all the handles
And the things wot held the candles
But it did no good, well I never thought it would

“All right,” said Fred, “Have to take the feet off
To get them feet off wouldn’t take a mo.”
Took its feet off, even took the seat off
Should have got us somewhere but no!
So Fred said, “Let’s have another cuppa tea.”
And we said, “right-o.”

This describes our labours down to a “t” (or even a tea). We had taken off the ‘andles, the fings wot ‘eld the candles, taken both feet and seat off, but it did no good (well I never thought it would). So, Graham had a think and he thought we ought to take off the front valance. That should give us plenty of room to swing the lump hammer. Well of course the front valance was held in with rusty self-tappers. Three cheers for the easyouts I bought last week. We got them out, but I don’t know whether or not I would describe the process as “easy”. Still, faint heart ne’er won fair maiden. With a bit of twisting and bending we managed to get the front valance off. This turned out to be fibreglass so I guess that this has been replaced some time between 1965 and last Thursday.

Now the dog can see the rabbit, let’s get this bonnet off! No amount of lump-hammer-swinging would persuade the last recalcitrant bolt to leave its residence. The fact that we had lopped off its head with the angle grinder seemed not to enter the equation. We’re running out of ideas. Peter had noticed that although we had removed the bolt head the washer, or at least part of it, still remained. He then set about this with his cold steel chisel and after a while we could see the metal plates starting to move away from the bolt. (See last week’s episode for our reasoning, “if the bolt won’t come out of the hole, remove the hole from around the bolt”).

Fantastic! As the last thing standing between Isaac Newton and the bonnet was removed, the bonnet did what could reasonably be expected of it and started heading towards the floor. Unfortunately I was directly underneath it at the time, but its fall was interrupted by a horse box, thank Goodness. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned the horse box before. Our working area is bounded by a hay stack on one side, a Triumph Spitfire on another, a Land Rover on yet another and finally (thankfully), by an old horse box.

Oh let joy be unconfined – the bonnet is off! Time for tea! Time for a picture!

After our brief celebrations, “On with the Motley” (Vesti la Giubba, as you might recall from Cav & Pag – we do try to inform and entertain), as they say.

We still have to:

  • Remove the left sill
  • Remove the back seats, front seat rails, carpets and seat belts
  • Get the doors off

Peter cracked on with the seats, they were off in a jiffy. The tread plate on top of the left sill gave in without a fight, but one last self-tapper holding on the sill was proving to be a pain.  We were using a set of drill bits that Peter had inherited from his father and while getting off the front valance, one of those aforesaid bits had rendered sterling service. Things then went into a bit of a decline. I tried virtually every drill in Peter’s collection and all I managed to achieve was the burnishing of a small indentation in the screw head. This was particularly infuriating because the screw seemed to be gripping onto nothing but iron-oxide dust. I must make sure to buy some tungsten carbide drills before our next visit.

There was a brief aside while we discussed our drill-grinding skills. Peter confessed that he had always considered this to be a black art (probably on the prospectus at Hogwarts). I used to do this “back in the day”, but in general I was only drilling into aluminium rivets where the drill doesn’t necessarily have to be all that “pointy”. Someone scribed a line on the grinding wheel tool rest at about 130-ish degrees, which helped (as long as the tool rest never moved). I can’t remember what the rake angle was (a “smidge”) but that was always achieved with a deft flick backwards as you moved the bit up the grinding wheel. We used to have to learn these angles as part of our trade training. There were so many angle to remember, which made them ideal for exam questions. The same thing applied to screw thread angles, although why I had to learn the Whitworh, BSP, UNC, UNF etc. thread angles I’m not entirely sure. This knowledge has not overly enriched my life but it gave me something to worry about over 40 years ago.

Next, help Peter remove a couple of seat belt mounting points. This was made somewhat comical by being able to smile at Peter through the enormous holes in the floor panels while he was heaving on one side and I was heaving on the other. If we had both pushed a bit harder the last remaining vestiges of metal would have given way and we could have ignored the formality of a nut and bolt.

The (almost) last act of the day was to get the doors off. The 6 bolts per door came off easily enough. There was a few minutes of head scratching while we tried to work out how to disconnect the door restraint link. It looked like a clevis pin or rivet but there wasn’t much room to get at it. It turned out that we could just lift it upwards by wedging a small screwdriver underneath it.

Enough for one day, already! We are now at the stage where we can start undoing the bolts which hold the body to the chassis. I couldn’t resist the temptation to undo a couple of the easy ones. As for the rest, as there seems to be very little left of either the body or the chassis, you’d think this would be pretty straightforward. In fact, one good sneeze/cough and the two ought to part company. Let’s see what happens next.