by Dan Bysouth
As an apprentice I had to sample the different trades on the CBR floor, so for 2 months I was seconded to the paint shop.
We had 6 full time staff in Paint: Ted, Peter and Kenny the seniors plus Steve and Ian who were apprenticed. They were all looked after by the paint shop foreman Walter, known to all as Dibble, as in Officer Dibble from the Top Cat cartoons.
Dibble was a rotund very jolly chap who took on all the strain of the painters. He would source the colour, check it by spraying out test plates and checking that it was a spot on match, he would know exactly who was at what stage on any job in the shop. We just did our best job to get that perfect finish. Dibble was a creature of habit. Each morning he would arrive (never late), hang his mac in his office - which was smaller than a wardrobe – and put his crash helmet on the chair (he had a Honda 50 moped). Next he would take a pie out of his lunch box and put it in a light box, the size of a biscuit tin with a 100-watt light bulb in it and a hinged door on the front. It was really meant for baking of the paint cards for colour matching, but by 10am it had warmed up Dibble’s pie to perfection.
I was to work first of all with Ted. The success of the CBR floor was known far and wide and as such a yellow P6 Rover arrived from Holland for a colour change re-spray. This was Ted’s job with me assisting. The week running up to my time in Paint was spent with Toots stripping the Rover to a bare shell. Bonnet, boot, doors, front and rear panels, sills and even the roof all came off. We paint stripped each and every panel, sanded them firstly with 180 grit paper discs, then 240. The panels had any small dents repaired, they were in extremely good condition so little panel work was needed.
Etch primer was applied first, then we used a primer called RPF 800. As well as priming the roof we applied colour to the underside and inner edges as the roof panel was to be fitted on the freshly painted rolling shell as it was too flimsy to have on tressels. It must be said at this time that Ted was a most unusual painter. He had been the subject of a school boy prank gone wrong and had lost an eye. It made no difference to him at all. His paintwork was brilliant, he rode a Honda CB175 motor cycle and he was the other golfer on the floor that I mentioned in a previous piece.
With all the panels primed, the painter’s most important piece of equipment after his spray gun came into use - his bucket. Wet flatting was the order of the day back then and your bucket was king. In it was a rubber block, a real leather, a quality sponge and most important, clean cold water. With a square of 800 wet n dry paper on the block and a full sponge we had to carefully block away the black lightly applied black guide coat so as to give a lovely smooth surface to which the cooler could adhere. This took a few days, preparation is king and if the preparation is not good then it doesn't matter who puts the paint on, it won't look good.
After a few days rubbing, sore fingers and many buckets of water later, Ted checked each panel for imperfections. He would stopper these and they would be flatted also. Each panel would be individually hung on stands to be rolled into the spray booth for Ted to work his magic. I didn't get to paint till much later, my last bit of help was to put on plastic gloves and to wipe each panel with spirit wipe to give a clinical surface for paint. Ted spent a solid 4 to 5 hours painting that day, applying the beautiful new silver finish that the customer requested. Each completed batch of panels when painted was pushed through sliding doors in the spray booth to the oven on the other side, and these baked while Ted painted some more. They were called combi ovens.
Of course just like the Roller I had worked on before, we had to flat and polish the Rover. It was back breaking and made your arm ache, but a wet 1200 careful flat and then a machine polish gave us a glass finish and when rebuilt and detailed it looked a million dollars. I did not know it then, but 3 years later I would start a refinishing career that would last me the next 30 years or so. So Ted, if you’re listening up there in that great paint shop in the sky, thanks mate!
Now Christmas was a good time at Mann Egerton’s and their Christmas box to us every year was a frozen turkey. The last day before we finished for the break there was no work to do. We all had some drinks in the various offices, we crashed other people's parties as they crashed ours and it was always in good humour. After collecting our Christmas kisses from the secretaries, at lunchtime we all went up the road to the pub, it was only 30 yards away which was just as well when you consider the state some of us got in!
Round about 4 to 4.30pm we all had to line up in the garage downstairs and a large refrigerated truck pulled up. One by one we advanced to the front of the queue, once there a turkey would fly out of the back of the truck and that was your Christmas box, first come first served. Mine came out and nearly killed me - it was massive. We measured the weight in the stores and it was 26 lbs in weight. Big enough to feed a small army!
I had a problem now, slightly drunk, moped and 26 lb turkey. I don't advocate drinking and driving but hey, I was 17 and wild. The guys dressed me in my helmet and duffle coat and they sat me on my trusty Yamaha FS1-e, then they strapped the turkey to my back with loads of masking tape, round and round they wound it around me and then sent me off in the direction of home. I made it safely and as Mum had a turkey already my girlfriend’s family and I enjoyed the big bird over that wonderful time.
Next time: rumours worry us all, and the writings on the wall.
Part 1 - Triumph Stag
Part 2 - Interceptor
Part 3 - Rolls-Royce
Part 4 - Her Majesty vs the Honey Monster
Part 5 - Rolls, Allegros and an MGB causes trouble
Part 6 - Rain
Part 7 - Brassy and a Rover SD1