This one word may well be what you would hear cascading out from many a classic lover’s mouth once they start to delve in behind the panels of a project car they’ve just bought. As we all are well aware, old cars rust and they rust badly unless well taken care of. In the UK, things are even more tragic, with salted roads and by comparison to NZ a mammoth population, it’s a wonder they have as many classic or retro cars as they do. Despite this fact, the UK like everywhere else is by no means immune to spectacular finds of decidedly rare beasts. One such car which has been unappreciated in almost all era’s it’s been witness to since it’s inception is the Austin A40 Somerset. Having only been available from 1952 through to 1954 with production figures around 170,000 it’s safe to say it isn’t a particularly common motorvehicle at least in good shape. Which this one in question, really wasn’t.
Most, seeing this car as it stands and looks there in the picture, would think “Well… that’s not all bad… I’ll start stripping it down and replacing a few bits and bobs, she’ll be back on the road in no time.” However ‘scaryoldcortina’ , famed member of the retro-rides forums and the new owner of this Somerset (thanks to a trade for a Panda (an Italian one, not a Chinese one)) is not most people, he’s a man with a plan, a plan that doesn’t involve the original shape of the car much at all. So the strip down began…
With a wing pulled it was soon clear that the external appearance of this car was not even vaguely indicative of just how much of it the dreaded tin worm had made it’s home.
The more that was removed from the car, the more that fell off or out, all on it’s own. At this stage in the documented build, only one person knew what was going on and that was the (re)builder. Everyone monitoring the project essentially sat back and watched, with calls for it to be restored thrown around here and there, and some secrecy on the part of ‘scaryoldcortina’ the mystery of it all was so intriguing that many made a daily and almost hourly ritual of checking to see for updates.
With more and more of the car having been stripped, it was parked up over-night with a curious cover, leading many people to further ponder the direction of said project;
A new day dawned and more of the original bodywork was helped from the car leaving but an almost bare chassis. With nothing being given away as to the direction of the project wonderment and viewers increased. Just what was being undertaken here.
With most things removed from the chassis, further inspection showed that the chassis itself was actually in fantastic shape, with just a bit of guff on it, nothing to concern ones-self about.
A fantastic base one would think, to restore this little Somerset; …but wait….
“Wait a second, did he just move the ‘X’ section of the chassis??” I hear you ask. Yes. Yes he did and it was with that slice of a grinder that the direction of this project was to begin to become known.
You see, ‘scaryoldcortina’ like most of us in into cars had always wanted to make his own custom car or rod and this separate chassis A40 Somerset was an ideal base for this. However, if he’s removed all the panels, the floor, a lot of which was rotten in several places, what on earth is this project going to look like on completion!? With only ‘scary’ aware of this, with his design in his noggin. He carried on doing his work and updating with photos and details as he went. The cross section of chassis was move and welded into place, mounts were moved and ‘scary’ took a seat on the slightly altered skeleton of an automobile to envision how the rest of it might sit;
By the next day, with a few of the original panels placed back onto the now altered chassis, ‘scary’ soon let us know the direction this project was heading.
With this new shape now known, the rest of the project became a process of fitting, fiddling and making things work in a place where they once didn’t exist. Of course it’s one thing to know what you want, another for other people to recognise it and then another again for that dream to come to fruition. A lot of fabrication and modifications had to be done to get all the panels moved and in place. The original bulkhead was re-used and altered to fit;
The process of making the original items fit in their new positions took some time and is well documented in the thread though for the purposes of this entry, it would just take too long to cover. So being we have the benefit of the build being slightly in the past, we’ll skip ahead a little bit. Wait… is that the roof that he’s cut up there?
Yes it is indeed, but what on earth could he be doing…
Oh! I see what he did there!
With the roof in it’s new ingenious position as sides of the tub, the new shape of the once A40 Somerset took form infront of everyone and something that had been seen inside ‘scary’s’ head from the inception was now able to be viewed as a physical presence for all to see and what a fantastic one it was. Over the next few weeks, more was added, pieces were joined and the car really began to take shape. A motorcycle muffler joined in on the action, the height of the vehicle was seen too, wheels and tyres dealt with. The whole process was a joy to behold and an inspiration to all.
The positioning and joining of the majority of the bodywork now out of the way it came time to fettle with the engine componentry just a little. After all, what’s a rod with a standard engine? Fairly average is what and fairly average is certainly not something you could ever say about this build.
Factory carb removed and the manifold dealt to in spectacular style, what would be next? Oh yes… Motorcycle carbs!
A basic mock up using some lucozade bottles to check for clearance etc, things were well on the way.
The body shell and chassis were seperated, degreasing of both began, brake lines, hand-brake and other essentials were added to the car and in the meantime of course other more cosmetic things were also being undertaken. Mrs. ‘Scary’ though I might not have mentioned it previous had been part of this from day one and also amongst other things, contributed with the likes of this fine specimen;
The body and running gear having been removed from the chassis, prep and paint began;
Then of course, onto the body… with the underside not needing any more adjustments or welding done, it was seam sealed and then undersealed;
Some metalwork to be finished on the bulkhead;
Tyres arrived for the refurbished wheels;
Of course, body and chassis aside there’s still the running gear to think of, brakes, suspension and steering. All of that malarky that is integral to a well running machine. As with everything in this build, it was all dealt with in style, tidied and refurbished or replaced where necessary;
Then of course it came time to put these parts back onto the chassis… ahh, the re-assembly! …now, where did I leave those bolts?…
Brake lines and attachments;
Then from there, well where do you go? Obviously the only thing to do is to slap the engine back in, get some friends to help you throw the body back on.. and make a video documentation of the process of course!
Ah yes, a monumentus moment.
With the body back on the bright red chassis contrasting against the black underside of the body looked simply demonic!
Pushed out into the light and the hood sat atop the engine, the finished product was not far now and the hood sitting atop gave a good idea of how it would look.
However there was still the matter of engine work and electrical wiring to be sorted, headlamps, tail-lamps. As well as fuel lines, and associated bits & bobs and course as you can see, it may well need a screen!
Then… the inevitable happened!
It’s ALIVE! ALLLIIIIIIIVE! (I love saying that.) …and with that and some tuning sorted, jets adjusted and trumpets of a lucozade persuasion added, it came time again to focus on the finishing of it all, the body still needed some minor tidying, the legal requirements added such as headlamps, so that it could be given it’s MOT (like a Warrant of Fitness in NZ) However all these things could wait, at least until after the car had taken it’s first brief run down a quiet private road.
Electrical work started and final touches needed to be done to the bodywork and tub. Finding a place to mount the headlamps and sorting the position of the hood and screen post height was also necessary;
With all these little bits and bobs getting sorted, the end was within smelling distance;
Some steel flares made from signs (in true recycled style) were added to the rear and with some paint applied to the main tub…
With that there was only one place to go, the show which was the target date to meet. Retro Rides Gathering, 2008.
From April through til August, 4 months this build went from start to completion and kept a whole forum of people from all over the globe entertained and enthused about their own projects. The car, the man behind it all and the build itself are all inspirational and most definately worthy of any and every praise given during the process. If you ever are feeling a bit down about your own ride, I would suggest going back and having a look at ‘scaryoldcortina’s’ to get your motivation back.
I personally would like to thank scary for his commitment and enthusiasm and sharing of this build. Props to you my man.
If you’re interested in reading this saga from beginning to end, all the praise and suggestion along the way, then pop over to retro-rides.org you’ll find the thread here;
Feel free to comment here or there, congratulate the man on a job well done, he is most definately deserving of it as is his wife and all the friends that helped him along the way. Bravo to all involved.
As a parting gift, click this image and you’ll get to see Mayday! in it’s final guise after returning from RRG’08 in a higher resolution than the rest of the images I’ve used. Of course all of which were courtesy of scaryoldcortina’s thread on RR. So if any of those used take your fancy.. go take a look there.