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Refurbishment of my 1936 Rolls-Royce 25/30 Barker Limousine

Love at first sight

A good friend of mine sent me the two pictures above asking if I knew someone who might be interested in buying an old Rolls-Royce. To cut a
long story short, a week later the owner presented me with the Spirit of Ecstasy as proof of purchase. And with that, after several years of
dreaming about this moment, I was finally the proud owner of a pre-war Rolls-Royce motorcar.

The big day finally arrived and we collected her with my trusty old Land-Rover.

Me with the previous owner, who owned GAN81 since 1970.

The car was filthy from lack of use, and my wife was not having any of that, so as soon as I turned my back she and my son were in there
with vacuum cleaner and an assortment of weird and wonderful cleaning apparatus' and chemicals.

The end result was fabulous, and I celebrated their efforts in the appropriate manner. Even my son was pleased with his handiwork.

Mechanical Re-Commissioning

Following the cleaning process I started on the mechanical re-commissioning of the car. Even though she was in perfect running condition, I like to change all fluids and do a full service before I start using a newly acquired car. The above pictures show the gearbox with the floorboards removed, before and after cleaning.

The rear end of the car was elevated for easy access to the diff and exhaust. I also drained out all the old fuel while I had access to the fuel tank.

The rear section of the exhaust was in poor condition, so I removed it and had a new one made up.

I painted the new exhaust with satin black flame proof paint for that period look.

The original air filter was replaced with a modern replacement item.

The old and the new. How times have changed...

I know that it would have been more appropriate to collect the new
carpets by camel, but I do not currently have a camel,
so this had to do.
My intention was to buy cheap, temporary carpets to protect he wooden
floorboards during restoration, but I got carried away and came home with
these luxurious Persians instead. I think it is most appropriate
for such a grand old lady.

The front exhaust section was leaking badly, so rather that trying to repair
the original I had my friendly exhaust man make up a new one
using modern components.

I had to manufacture my own mounting points in order to secure
the modern exhaust in an old fashioned way to suite the car.

New flanges were laser cut...
...and gaskets were hand made from suitable heat-resistant material.

The heat-resistant gasket material is very difficult to work with,
but the end result was acceptable.

The finished exhaust components ready for painting and re-assembly.

Black stove paint gave the exhaust that period look,
appropriate for a car of this vintage.

All bolted together, a nice snug fit.

Elegant rear view mirrors were mounted on the wings.

The original water temperature gauge seems to work intermittently,
and even then the readings are a bit suspect, so I decided to
plumb in a VDO guage to act as a "second opinion" to the
original. The VDO sender unit was mounted using
a purpose made adapter in the radiator hose.

Not wanting to make any modifications to the original instruments
or facia I mounted the VDO guage in a discreet location on the
passenger side under the dashboard, but still visible
to the driver. This deviation from originality is well worth
the peace of mind.

The new tyres finally arrived which was a relief because the
old tyres are 20 years old and even though they still look
good, close inspection revealed tiny hairline cracks.
The car had a nasty wobble at about 45 mph,  so I took this opportunity to
balance the wheels by following the instructions given in the owners manual.
It is a tedious process and very time consuming, but much to my surprise,
it worked! So much so that it has completely transformed the car's road
behavior. Before balancing the wheels the car would start "wobbling" at
about 45 mph, and become almost uncontrollable at anything over 50.
After balancing the wheels I managed to get her up to 60 mph without
fuss, and she ran straight with no hint of a wobble or vibration.

Maiden Voyage

With the mechanical side of the refurbishment pretty much done we were dying to take her out for a bit of a run,
so a picnic on a nearby game farm was organised and "Cruella" was taken out on her maiden voyage!

We assembled a small group of fellow enthusiasts and off we went on Safari!

These Wildebeest seemed completely uninterested in our old cars and just went about their business as we drove past.

Not the usual sight in the car park at a game viewing lapa, but for us this is the only way to go on Safari in Africa...

The maiden voyage was a great success, and we were all very impressed with how well this old Rolls-Royce takes the African bushveld
in her stride. The dirt track was no challenge for the large spoke wheels, and surprisingly the trunk on the back did not take in any dust at all.
The engine runs smoothly with adequate power, and in spite of the warm weather she ran nice and cool with no sign of overheating.

Success was celebrated with a bottle of excellent champagne!


At this point in the restoration process I ran out of excuses to start disassembling the car for painting. So one Saturday morning in November 2010 I started
removing bits, refurbishing, labeling and finally packing it neatly away, ready for reassembling, probably many months later.

During a 1970 colour change under previous ownership many of the little detail items were covered in paint. They had to be removed and refurbished.

Window rubbers...or what's left of them.
All the shiny bits cleaned up, labeled and packed away.

The headlights were a bit of a mess. They were converted from the original "dip" function to use modern dim and bright. The conversion was well done, but they were poorly reassembled. I had to do a lot of cleaning up, and completely re-wire everything.
The centre trim peace featuring the Lucas emblem was broken and held
together with tape. I built a jig and repaired it with solder, as per original.

The centre trim back in position and rattle free.
The headlight, fully restored and ready to go back on the car.

The Lucas horns were also rather untidy, so they were disassembled and refurbished.

The three-legged horn mount must have been coated in something because no amount of gloss black paint would make it shiny.
It remained dull in colour and texture. Most extraordinary. 
The end result was truly fabulous. These horns really are beautiful.

The side lights before...
...and after refurbishing.
As you can see from the photographs above many of the components refurbished to date are chromed. Keeping in mind that this is a 74-year old car, I must just mention how impressed I was with the quality of the chrome on these old parts. They cleaned up incredibly well, and shine like they were manufactured last week! It is such a pleasure to work with such quality.

The front bumper was sent off for re-chroming and the bumper mount painted black in my make-shift spray booth.

A fine artists brush and a steady hand were all the tools required to refurbish the Rolls-Royce emblem that mounts onto the front bumper.

Once I removed the modern registration plate I found that the mounting
plate is actually the original UK registration plate!

Finally, three years later! (I had other projects as well...) The car was prepared for painting.

The silver was applied first, followed by teal grey (A friend and fellow Pre-War Rolls-Royce owner named this colour Westminster Sea Frost!)

I took a decision not to give the wheels the same base and clearcoat paint treatment as the body because it would be difficult to do running repairs.
Wheels suffer from wear and tear during regular use, and would probably require periodic touch-ups. In view of this I painted them with silver
metallic engine enamel from aerosol cans. It worked pretty well and I am now able to touch up any nicks and scratches as we go along.

The boot interior was cleaned up and hand painted.

Whilst preparing the body for painting I found various brass trim bits. I decided to leave most of the brass exposed rather than painting over it.

A milestone! On 24 January 2014 the car was once again fully reassembled. It took three years to get to this point.
However, the re-assembly took just one week of evenings because all the components were refurbished when
they were removed from the car. When time came for the reassembly
everything was ready and just had to be bolted back onto the car.

To be continued...