by Dan Bysouth
Part 3 of Dan's recollections of his time as a young apprentice in the British motor trade of the late 1970s. This story recalls Dan's experience working with an accident-damaged Rolls-Royce.
So, Keith was away on his holidays, and I started on the Coach Building Repairs (CBR) floor under the supervision of Toots. What came to be my everyday chore was to get Toots’ cigarettes first thing. Then, a quick hello to the other guys on the floor. I had been there a week but didn't really mix with anyone other than Keith.
There were three panel beaters, three painters, a paint shop foreman, one electrician, four apprentices including me, a body shop foreman and the body shop manager. These were factory trained technicians, highly skilled and old school. One of the beaters wore a shirt and tie every day of the year, if it got very hot he may loosen his tie, but it had to be really hot. These beaters could do such intricate work, their skills were the best you could get.
My first job working under Toots was an accident repair on a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud MKIII. The bodywork on the Rolls was lead filled, no 'pudding' at all; it really was a work of art to admire . The car was ready on the jig, waiting for us to start stripping it. A fist full of plastic bags for each individual group of bits at the ready and off we went.
Toots started on the drivers door and with me mirroring his every move we removed all 4 door linings. So many little chrome headed screws and clips, it was fiddly but with a lot of time and patience we did it; I was well chuffed. The electrician released the wires for each door and with a large block of wood and a trolly jack it took three of us to remove each door, they were so heavy. Loosening the bottom bolts on each door meant that the door supported itself till the last minute. That was one of the first important things I learnt so far.
With each part we stripped more and more and the plastic bags were piling up. When we finished we had nearly 50 bags. With all the doors off. we carefully removed the boot lid . Again so heavy and difficult to control, resting the boot on your shoulder, one hand under the back edge and the other releasing the bolts.
The bonnet followed as well as the grille with the winged lady intact. The grille and the lady were locked in a separate store, these were prestige parts and it was procedure to do this, not mistrust. Whilst Toots and myself were removing these bits, the sparks was doing his bit to release wires so the body could come off. With the interior out, Toots showed me the bolts that held on the body to the chassis. I think they had 9/16 AF heads on them with mudwing washers on each one. Finding these bolts took a while as years of dirt and in some places rubber guard covered the heads, but in time we were ready for the big lift.
4 trolley jacks, 6 guys and me. The jacks were placed at each corner and very slowly lifted a bit at a time. My job was to closely monitor each mounting point as there would be packers in between the chassis and the body. And each point would probably have a different amount. I had to record which point and how many packers. Up went the body till we could roll out the chassis with the engine still in it. Once out, we lowered the body onto dollies and for the time being we had done.
We stripped each door and the rest of the body but the beaters had the back end of the chassis to straighten, clean up the underneath of the body and then the body would be refitted and worked on to prepare for the respray. Tt had to be done this way as the car had been hit from behind . Off course this wasn't all done in one day - it was the best part of a week as other jobs had to be done too.
It had been good experience for me and Toots and I got on so well. Next time includes being bathroom fresh and a close encounter with royalty!