Time to call in the professionals

| 27 Nov 2012

We all have our limitations when it comes to spanner-wielding, some of us bouncing our bonces off the glass ceiling sooner than others.

With mechanical problems, I’m enthusiastic enough but my diagnostic skills are pretty weak; fortunately, I have the likes of Port and Elliott to call on for advice. Likewise, James Page has earned himself a fine reputation for his skills with a multimeter so is usually the first port of call when suffering electrical maladies.

If I do have a forte, it's probably bodywork. It's an area that most of us are pretty fearful of taking on, and I certainly don't consider myself any kind of expert, but it's something I've always tackled with gusto – for the simple reason that I can't really afford to pay someone else to do it. I don't mean welding – although teaching myself is next on the list – rather patching up, tidying up, making pretty... Yup, bodging.

So I wasn't fazed by the idea of attacking the bubbling areas across the back of my Suzuki with a wire brush. Unfortunately, however, the discovery that the Whizzkid made a colander seem watertight soon proved too much for me, and the more I sanded back, the more holes I found. This was not a job for the plod-and-primer approach.

The car was handed over to Oli Cottrell in late 2011, and returned a couple of months later with new metal replacing iron oxide and an awful lot of preparation to do.

No worries, I thought, and set to with gusto, plus vast quantities of filler, filler-primer and wet-and-dry paper.

When I was still filling and sanding a year later, the doubts set in. I needed professional help – and I'm not talking psychiatry. The time had come to call up Will Austin at Claremont Coachworks.

A few years ago, Will did a marvellous job of repainting the front end of my Volvo 1800ES – see main pic – after someone clumsy (not me, for once!) managed to spill brake fluid across the wing.

Having been assured that it was "just a flat and paint", Austin agreed to take it on as a long-term project in between other jobs… Sorry, Will.

I could almost hear his heart sink as we rolled the Whizz off the trailer, but to his credit he and colleagues Louis and Bob set to with the sanders straight away.

Their experience made mincemeat of the burrs and imperfections that I had been battling against, and shortly after I had delivered it to Claremont's Surrey base I got a text with a pic of the car taped up in the spray booth, with the message: 'Quiet week in the workshop so we had a go at your car.'

By the time you read this, it should be in primer, and by Christmas I hope to have it back together… Watch out for a progress report in the next issue of C&SC!