From time to time we find some of our customers are surprised that as well as supplying parts we also run a thriving restoration business. We find the two go together very well, as
- we are familiar with most if not all of the problems encountered by our customers when working on their own cars,
- we know the strengths and weaknesses of each model,
- we have a first hand opportunity to check that the parts we supply actually fit and perform as intended, and
- when restoring a car we have most of the parts required in stock.
As we have a small private collection of the type of cars we work on there is always a chance to check on something we are unfamiliar with, take measurements or make templates. All in all this means we are in a stronger position than most companies to ensure customer satisfaction with either the supply of parts or with restoration work. It also enables us to provide help and advice to a customer working on his own car who encounters a problem.
We have a large, fully equipped workshop, capable of carrying out almost all body, mechanical or trim work, plus a knowledgeable, skilled and enthusiastic staff fully trained and capable of using this equipment.
Our bodywork section has the capability to repair any type of bodywork problem from accident damage to corrosion rectification. With an English wheel, box and pan folders capable of producing a single piece sill, edging jennies, swaging tools, plus equipment to either tilt a car or rotate it to a completely inverted position we can tackle most things. We have TiG, MiG and oxy-acetylene welding and are particularly choosy with primers and paint processes, allied to anti-corrosion techniques.
The mechanical side of the workshop is the province of Stewart Jackson, Chris Loynes, Julian Peirson and Shaun Brits. As well as two four post lifts we have a brake testing machine for master cylinders, servos and calipers, two lathes, Schaublin milling machine, a 6 column mercury manometer for carburettor balancing, engine building stands, huge amounts of special Lancia tools and many special fixtures for example for dismantling Aurelia front suspension units off the car. Naturally we also have normal workshop equipment such as hand tools, an ultra violet leak detector, compression and cylinder leakage testers, precision measuring tools, several hardness testers, coil and leaf spring measurement systems, propshaft vibration analysis, crack detection equipment (magnetic and dye penetrant) as well as ultrasonic cleaners, parts washers and bead blaster.
All this means we can tackle virtually any job, from a minor service to a complete every last nut and bolt restoration. The workshop comfortably allows work on 15 cars, but has been known to accommodate up to 20, when things have got particularly hectic.
A word or two on what we consider constitutes a full restoration may not go amiss, as we see a great deal of poor quality work. We strip a car completely with every single component removed, first taking scores of photographs, drawing enough sketches to fill a small book and recording key measurements to assist with such jobs as re-aligning doors. The shell would then be paint stripped by hand, the underseal removed by mechanical means and/or heat and then shot blasted to remove all traces of rust, underseal and paint. The next step is a temporary coat of epoxy etch primer to ensure rust doesn’t start again, followed by re-fabrication and repair work including jigging to ensure an untwisted body. After lead loading or filling as appropriate further priming is then required before the car is ready for final surfacing and finishing. We always use 2-pack materials, preferring their durability to the softer and never fully hard cellulose. With a final flatting and polishing it is difficult to tell from original finishes, except in the case of metallic colours, where we see little sense in reproducing the rather poor effects inherent with the early materials. We always completely finish the body shell before assembly starts.
During the body renovation, trial assemblies are done to ensure that all body fixtures and fittings are aligned correctly so that no nasty shocks or surprises are discovered later on. We have taken over abandoned or stalled restorations started elsewhere and encountered problems resulting in significant rework and added expense.
Whilst the body is proceeding we will be working on the mechanical components, with the emphasis on restoration rather than replacement. Techniques involved obviously depend on the particular item in question, and the degree of deterioration that it has suffered. We make use of powder coating, stove enamelling and zinc, nickel and chrome plating. At the moment most engine machining, such as reboring and crank grinding is sub-contacted, but we own special fixtures for reboring both Fulvia V-angles.
Some trim work is sub-contacted but we also have an in-house trimmer. We have an aversion to underfelt and instead use waterproof materials that also have superior sound attenuation. Carpets or rubber mats, cloth, vinyl and hide are then selected, as appropriate. Matching original colours and textures is never easy but we put a big effort into this and can now produce effects largely indistinguishable from original.
It is the final re-assembly that can make or break a restoration. Making doors fit, windows to wind easily and sealing rubbers to perform as intended are, in our experience, the hardest part of any restoration. But perhaps of equal importance is the re-commissioning to make sure all systems operate satisfactorily, and that any teething troubles (and there are sure to be some) are discovered before the customer takes delivery of his car.
Turning to our parts division, this is run by Elizabeth and Andrew Cliffe and Robert Moore. We stock stock a vast range of parts, but remember we also cater for all models up to the Fulvia, Flavia/2000 and Stratos. More and more parts are being specially made either by or for us, in various factories spread right across the world. Sales are also on a world-wide basis with customers in over 70 countries, and about 50% of our sales are exported. Stock control and invoicing are computer based with networked PC’s. We have a large stock of used items which we do not catalogue, and also many new items only available in small quantities which again are not listed. Delivery is frequently next-day when suitable payment methods are made.