I was looking for a little project to work on over the winter and I found what I thought I was looking for in an ad in the Atlantic British classifieds. "A 1960 Series II, Needs work. Best Offer."
I called and the somewhat relieved voice on the other end of the phone told me I could have the car for free if I would just come and pick it up that very weekend. As this was solidly within my price range, I agreed immediately.
I arrived to pick up the Rover the very next weekend, filled with excitement and more than a little apprehension at what, precisely, I might find. (The ad wasn't very specific.) There she was, parked - or left - under a tree, sunk in the softened ground up to the axles, filled with miscellaneous Rover junk and smelling to high heaven of something akin to mold. I felt I could either have an ambitious Rover restoration on my hands, or the cure to some exotic disease, so either way, I was compelled to go on.
After using a bucket loader to pull it from the clutches of its burial place, I hand winched it onto my trailer and sped off for the nearest car wash. I spent $10 in quarters pressure washing the green mold off of her; a mold which had festered to an inch-thick in accommodating nooks like the window tracks.
REMOVING THE HEAD TO SAVE THE PATIENT
Thinking the engine must've seized, I cleaned the head and piston tops and discovered the engine was actually a fairly fresh rebuild! Seeing no problem with the pistons, I pulled the starter and was surprised to see the engine turned. The engine wasn't seized - the starter was stuck! This was all the encouragement I needed. I dove into the brakes and clutch. Having had a few mishaps with failing brakes in the past (that's another story), I took no chances here, replacing everything - new shoes, springs, cylinders, clutch lines, brake lines - the works.
After driving it for a hour or so it becomes clear that a gear box was in order. I prepared to strip the old girl for rebuild and then started on the body itself.
I removed the roof, the doors, the floors, the seat box, the rear tub, the windshield, the hood, the wings, the axles and springs...pretty much anything that could be unbolted, unscrewed, upended or peeled away. This was getting exciting.
Next came prepping the frame and axle casings. I sanded and painted the axles, changed the pinion seals, mounted the springs to the axles and changed the bushing to Poly Bushings - a must in any Rover restoration, to my mind.
Then came mounting the parts on the frame. (See how simple all this really is?) I mounted the front and rear axles, put the engine and transmission in the frame, mounted the steering relay, exhaust and brake lines, and sometime in the midst of all this had the presence of mind to send the bulkhead away to be welded. Meanwhile, I stripped and painted the body panels a rich burgundy and, rebuilt the rear tub.
A FIREWALL THAT WOULDN'T FIT
When the firewall came back, I thought it would be a simple matter to fit it to the frame, but here I ran into a problem. The firewall was, somehow, too narrow. I applied a come-along and stretched the damn thing to fit, thinking I should send this to someone in come-along marketing as yet another use for this versatile product.
With the firewall finally in place, I could start installing the wiring harness. We're getting close now! Next came the pedal boxes, gauges, steering column, windscreen and then the body assembly.
Naturally, the roof needed to be rebuilt, and new seals around the windows where that dry rot had eaten them away. Then, the final paint job - a nice clean white.
Now that that's done, it's back on the road again - a proud phoenix lifted from the ashes (ok, muck) and restored to her former glory. In fact, I just got back from a 14-hour round trip to the Winter Romp in Northern Maine, where my freshly-painted Burgundy Series II gathered more than her fair share of admiring glances. I have about $10,000 in new parts in her, all of which I got from Atlantic British in Clifton Park, New York. At lot of money, but I'm confident I could sell her for $15,000...not that I ever would.
And to think the guy gave this vehicle away for free!
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