Why a Stag? Back in the long hot summer of 1976, when temperatures were so high that roads were melting and railway tracks were buckling, I'd just left college and was getting married at the end of July so needed to earn some money quickly: I ended up with a day job and working evenings in the Wimpy in Bridlington. The owner was kind enough to give me a lift home in his Stag and I promised myself I'd have one, one day. That desire outlasted the marriage but finances didn't allow fulfilment of the Stag owning dream until my 50th birthday in 2004.
After stripping the car down to a bare bodyshell, it went off to Surface Processing Ltd to be dipped: this is a ruthlessly revealing multi-stage process which strips paint and dissolves rust, underseal and filler, leaving sound bare steel. When the car came back it became clear that both rear wings had been replaced at some time but appeared to have been fitted by Father Ted Crilly judging by the line of hammer marks all the way from top to bottom of both wings just in front of the wheel arches. Both sills needed replacing, one having been "repaired" with a not very well fitted cover sill. The boot floor was perforated almost all the way round making me wonder what had been holding it in the car. In fact just about every external panel would need replacing while the interior just needed some repairs, the floor having been replaced at some time. I had anticipated that the doors would at least need the bottoms repairing but both turned out to be sound, with just a little surface rust having made them look worse than they actually were. The picture below shows the bodyshell mounted on the jig after it had been dipped but the full extent of the rot isn't obvious.
Work now started in earnest with more and more seeming to have been cut out every time I visited: on
For the next visit, on 28 April 2007, the rear valence panel had been fitted, a new boot floor was in place, various repairs had been made and the rear offside wing was about to be fitted. The rear wings are genuine original Triumph items, courtesy of Peter Pearse to whom I am extremely grateful. As I understand it he bought these from a bankrupt dealer and had kept them safely stored ever since. I also believe that they were used as patterns for the new SOCTFL rear wings which, according to EJ Ward's April Workshop Diary, are now available: please contact them for more details or to place an order.
In between visits, work on my car was filmed for use in the Classic Car Restoration Techniques: Bodywork DVD produced by Core Productions and available from EJ Ward. The picture shows Wayne Jones working away whilst being filmed. He has now set up his own mobile welding business, Classic Mobile Welding.
The visit on 16 June 2007 revealed significant progress on the car's front end with both wings, top panel, headlight panel and lower valence fitted and the rear end almost complete with both wings, top deck, a reclaimed light panel and lower valence fitted. The welding in of new metal is going well with the end almost in sight.
The car now went back to Surface Processing Ltd to be dipped again but this time only to remove paint and any surface rust which had formed while the bodyshell was being repaired. It was then dipped in electrophoretic primer which flows into seams and box sections to provide modern car standards of corrosion protection. This has been supplemented with cavity wax to try and keep corrosion at bay for as long as possible.
My choice of colour now presented problems as Damson was not listed on the paint suppliers' databases. The first batch was too brown - it made the underside look like a chocolate biscuit: definitely not what I had been trying to achieve. Fortunately the problem was recognised very quickly, before too much had been painted. The first picture below is of Jason applying primer to the underside of the car before it was finally painted body colour. As originally supplied the car had been painted Russet Brown but had mostly been resprayed in white on at least two occasions but missing the underside of the tonneau cover which remained Russet Brown. A personal and very subjective opinion is that dark colours suit the Stag better than light ones. In making my choice I had considered reds, blues and greens before eventually deciding on Damson. A visit on 5 January 2008 saw the car resplendent in its new colour and looking every bit as good as I'd hoped for but visiting again on 9 February 2008 when the car was outside made the colour look different. By this time the engine was built and ready for fitting: the heads on the original engine had corroded so badly that they couldn't be taken off the engine block so another block and heads were used. The front and rear suspension components had been refurbished with polyurethane bushes used throughout so the car could now stand on wheels again - a big milestone reached!
The next visit on 29 March 2008 saw the engine and gearbox fitted along with much of the brake system and some of the engine bay fittings plus the windscreen, the rear lights and some trim. The picture of the engine shows the tubular exhaust manifolds fitted: the original cast iron ones were cracked so this seemed too good an opportunity to miss. The rear lights are original rather than the reproduction items and were bought via ebay for £300 the pair in January 2006: I've only seen one other pair advertised since and they went for a similar price. It's beginning to look like a car again.
I left visiting for a while as it had been hoped to have the car finished in time for a summer collection and I preferred to wait until the restoration was finished before seeing it again. For various reasons this didn't happen so another visit was made on 27 August 2008, with much of the internal trim now fitted. In the intervening time two more problems had become apparent: one of the bonnet hinges had broken away at some time in the past and had been welded back but slightly out of alignment compared to the now straight bodyshell. Mick also thought that the car might have had a rear end collision at some time as the tonneau panel was slightly out of true and could not be made to fit: perhaps this accounts for two new rear wings having been fitted? Both were replaced with reclaimed panels.
When Mick phoned to ask me to let him have the number plates I knew that we were getting close to finishing the restoration and the car would soon be home and available for driving. I dropped them off and waited expectantly for the phone call to let me know the result of the MOT, not that I had any doubts as the car was virtually brand new. That milestone was passed on 27 November 2008 and the car was taxed from 1 December so that it could be given a road test to iron out any little problems before I collected it, on 13 December 2008. Naturally it was raining heavily so I had to have the hood up to drive home but the rain had the beneficial side effect of slowing traffic on the M1 so I wasn't holding up other people anxious to get somewhere quickly. All that remains now is to drive the car and enjoy it, Mick wants to see it back again after 1000 miles to just check it over and deal with any little problems that have arisen.
Having spent so much restoring the car I obviously wanted insurance to reflect this but was very disappointed with the service I received from my then insurers. There was always a comment on some part of the documentation to the effect that I still hadn't reported my medical condition to DVLA despite me having told them on a number of occasions that, as it was not a reportable condition, DVLA had been completely disinterested. When I'd sent the pack of original documentation, copies were not acceptable, demanded by the insurers for the first renewal after restoration I enclosed a Special Delivery postage paid plastic self-seal envelope and asked that it all be returned in this: it was all returned in an unsealed jiffy bag. Their idea of an agreed valuation was what they said, based on recent selling prices with no reference to the work done, and I couldn't realistically challenge it. It was also clear that, despite having demanded original copies of all invoices etc, this hadn't even been looked at. Considering the extra cost of an agreed valuation policy I was hugely disappointed. Time for a look around at the next renewal and I was directed towards Towergate: I found their web-site difficult to use so had to resort to dealing with them by telephone but I found this not too difficult and was impressed by the experience in many ways. The biggest difference was that their valuer contacted me and explained how he had come up with a valuation 20% greater than my previous insurers plus, on payment of an additional premium I could increase the sum insured by 50%. This was more like it: I had always been prepared to pay a higher premium to get the cover I wanted but my previous insurers seemed completely unable or unwilling to cope with this. Fortunately I haven't had to claim on the insurance so can't say what Towergate are like in dealing with claims but I have been sufficiently satisfied to mean that I will almost certainly renew with them without bothering to check the market: I'm more interested in getting the cover I want than saving a few pounds.