by Dan Bysouth
As the weeks and months passed, I grew in confidence which resulted in my taking on more jobs on my own. They were still quality checked at the end but that was how it should be. It was drummed into me that you can always learn something new, no one knew it all. The wide assortment of vehicles brought to us for attention meant that different repair methods - some new and some very old - were used and at times they could be quite comical.
For example, the trained RR mechanics had some fantastic pieces of electrical gear to use when they were refitting the running gear on the refurb. The coachbuilders - Toots and 'his boy' (me) - well we had a more old fashioned piece of equipment to use. We had to fit new door rubbers to each of the RR doors. Anyone who has fitted such things will know that it can be awkward to get them in. To edge one side of the raised strip into the metal flange can be troublesome at the best of times. When the rubbers are new and the flanges have been freshly painted it was just about impossible. We tried for hours but to no avail.
The air was blue, we were both hot and we had had enough by the end of the morning. We sat down to lunch and were chatting about how we could get past this and came up with the bright idea to call RR and ask for some advice from their fitters. So Toots gets on the phone and after waiting to get to the right chap with the information to enlighten us, Toots returns with a smile on his round, jolly face and says to me that we need a very special bit of kit..........A BUCKET. Yes, a bucket. Fill it with boiling water, put a welding torch on it to keep it boiling and put in a door rubber to boil away for 30 mins.
I thought he was winding me up but no, he was serious. We did as they said and although rather hot to hold it worked a treat. So the RR mechanics had equipment costing thousands, we had a bucket! We were at the leading edge of technology. Yes, we laughed. I was by this time doing more trimming work too which really worked well. I liked the difference of working under a dirt encrusted wing and the overalls off to climb inside the spotless interior of a customer’s pride and joy. Keith had the big jobs but I took care of some easier stuff like seat removals, carpet repair or something that needed a little adjustment, like a sliding roof or hood. I learned quickly that hog rings are very sharp and a sewing machine needle thinks nothing of going straight through your finger.
We did at one time, have a lot of Allegro owners coming in with collapsed rear seat cushions. At first we thought the owners were probably getting a bit too amorous and that was the cause, but they came in by the dozen. BL put a paper out to our body shop say that the cushion frame was weak in design and released a kit to repair them. I took out the cushion and stripped off the cover, the panel beaters welded in strengtheners, I etched the bare welds, refitted the covers and there we go. Better than new. We did dozens of these and I still have hog ring scars to prove it. I still love the Allegro though.
I remember on Friday morning we had been told that an MGB GT that I had stripped earlier in the week had to be ready for the customer that night as they were going on holiday on the Saturday morning. It was a job I had done on my own and as it was only a door refit should be fine, it would be out of the ovens after dinner. This gave me three and a half hours to fit it up. To start with I fixed in the drop glass rear channel and then lowered down the drop glass and at the same time lowering the quarter light and front drop glass assembly to sandwich the glass in between.
It's a bit fiddly but with a push here and wiggle there the two threaded pins slipped into their respective holes. Now, this is the difficult bit. There were two washers - one on each thread - and a Simmons nut to follow (nyloc nut). The washers were an oblong shape and had to be positioned in line with the window aperture. That's how it was supposed to have been done.
I didn't notice the oblong washers and so, when I tightened up the nuts two large high spots appeared in the freshly repaired door panel – disaster! The first person to come and see it was my charge hand. The air was blue once more, I was worse than useless and all hell broke loose. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not leaving until this was sorted. The customer was on his way. I started to strip out the frame again and the beaters completed two small spot repairs. The painters jumped on it and luckily could repaint the door with a wet on wet process where primer and top coat would be applied in one process.
It was now 5pm and everybody was going home. Nothing would stop Toots leaving at 5 and he came to me, looked me in the eye and said, "Do you know what you did wrong Daniel? " “Yes”, I say. With that he clipped me round the ear and said he would see me Monday. He was a star. The job got done properly, the customer was happy and I would never make that mistake again.
On Monday morning I got a verbal warning, as it was my mistake. That was fair enough.
Next time, the finishing touches to the Rolls, and me up to my neck in the deep end.
Part 1 - Triumph Stag
Part 2 - Interceptor
Part 3 - Rolls-Royce
Part 4 - Her Majesty vs the Honey Monster