Pre-Restoration Preliminaries
By R.N. Seth
Congratulations for getting your beauty. If its your first one, I hope you looked into the condition of the body for rust damage, condition of tyres and engine. These are the major cost factors in restoration. It’s a good idea to take someone along who can inspect these if you are not knowledgeable on these aspects.

Having bought your car make a budget of what you want to spend to restore it. If the budget is less than the amount required to be spent, you will have to increase the time period and add to the budget whenever possible.

Restoration work can be a joy as well as a pain but my recommendation is get closely involved if possible. Try and do whatever is easy, with or without the help of specialists, in your own home or garage. For instance clean out the engine bay with kerosene and a brush and I’m sure you will discover lots that’s been hidden behind years of dust and oil. Some levers and linkages may suddenly come to life with this treatment. Also wash out the underside, remove seats and clean the inside of the car. It is possible that some items you thought should be renewed will carry on for a while longer. If you have been involved in this work you will know your car better.

If the car runs I would suggest you drain the radiator and refill with clean water. Clean the plugs and reset the gap. Clean the air filter and replace it if it is in a bad condition. Clean the oil filter and fit back. If the oil is like sludge then replace it and also the oil filter. This work can be done with the help of your driver or some junior mechanic that you may know. Run the car and note the oil pressure at say twice the tick over RPM. Note ammeter functioning and engine temperature after the car has run for say 10 minutes. (Don’t run the engine at high RPMs as you do not know its condition). It is very important to take a compression test of each cylinder and note the readings. This information if properly interpreted will help you to decide what work if any is required for the engine and could save you a packet.

The car has to be given a road test to establish the condition of the brakes, transmission differential and steering. Drive on a quiet street and note any noises or squeaks that emanate. It is also a good idea to park the car on a flat part of the road and observe if the car is tilting to one side or not. This gives you information about the comparative condition of the springs. If you have a handbook for your car, (a very important investment,) you could compare the actual height of the body with what it should be according to the service manual. Armed with all this information you are now in a position to intelligently decide what mechanical work is required for the engine etc.

Take a look at all the doors and holding the bottom of the door move it upwards. Is there any movement? If so, is it the hinge? If its just the hinge it should be an easy job to renew the pin. Sometimes the hinge is loose where it is anchored to the body. You will have to ascertain the cause. In the cars of the ‘20s and ‘30s where wooden frame-work has been used, sometimes the screws do not fit tight into the wood frame. You may have to replace this wood or repair it by adding new wood so that a strong joint can be made. Inspect the body panels for rust, specially those areas where water could have accumulated and stood for some time, such as in the bottom inside of the doors and corners of the luggage compartment. With this information you can decide on what body work is required. It is a good idea to take several photographs from various angles as a reference, specially if extensive body work is to be done.

A quick look at the wiring is recommended. If the wires are stiff or there are numerous joints taped up, do change the wiring. You will save yourself a lot of problems in the future. I would advise not to replace the dynamo with an alternator even though this may be suggested to you quite forcefully. This change alters the character of your vehicle.

If you were lucky to get a marques and the upholstery was of leather then please do replace it with leather. If your budget is inadequate then delay the project but do not compromise by using artificial leather. Once again do take pictures of the styling of the upholstery on the seats, doors, armrests and other sections.

Many a car has been damaged by neglect of the lubrication system. Besides observing the oil pressure on your dash board, do also locate all the other lubrication points. If you have a handbook or a service manual for your model of car this information would be readily available.

Remember it’s a hobby and labour of love, so don’t get disheartened by setbacks. These will undoubtedly take place. Good luck and enjoyable motoring.

R.N. Seth is a Founder Member and a Senior Member of the Governing Body of the Heritage Motoring Club of India.

Join Us
HMCI in the Press
Subscribe to the Magazine
The registered office:
R-77A Greater Kailash-I
New Delhi – 110048
Tel: +91-11-2680100/800/900;
Facsimile: +91-11-26480300;