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Unlike My Alpine Journal, the running log, this section reads chronologically. It covers the period from when the Tomato went into Henry's to begin its refurbishment, to when bodywork was effectively complete and it went to his home garage for reassembly.

Overall Rebuild Sequence Begins
Removed chrome, lights, wipers. Found some very creative (and thick) bondo work on the front clip.
Removed top from frame, both hoods, top cover.
Removed carpets, interior and door panels and weatherstrip, top frame, trunk light and lock. Scraped deck base. Carpets peeled off in 10 minutes. Deck base had mostly dried tarpaper-ish stuff that pulled off in chunks.

The front half of the Parts Car (B9111949 LRX SB) was unceremoniously dragged onto a vehicle trailer and towed away to somewhere. All that was left that might have been of value was the steering column, box, rod and arms (?). Getting them out was going to be difficult, given the conditions, and the truck appeared at the right moment to solve a storage (half an Alpine, almost completely gutted, upside-down with doors splayed open, covered in a light dusting of snow) dilemma.

Removed seats, handbrake, hi-beam switch and a riveted plate covering the driver's-side floor. Looks like only about 1 sqft of rust-through, all under the pedals, concentrated near the clutch pedal and the seam where the floor meets the sidewall.

Scraped and vacuumed the floors, to remove big chunks before beading, and keep things closer to tidy. Dry prairie air means slow rust.

Drained block/gearbox oil and rad. Block drain is not reachable with headers in the way. Removed rad.

Removed door windows, radiator.
Removed door handles, strikers. Started soaking door hinges in penetrating oil.
Worked on removing headlamp pots. Removed hood latch.
Removed headlamp pots. Scraped and brushed front suspension and steering to make later washing easier. Got about 2lbs of good old prairie clay broken off in chunks, mixed with grease escaping from lube points through worn diaphragms. Looks like all rubber needs replacing. The bolts holding the front end to the frame never had their lockwashers bent into holding shape, either side. Decided to leave doors on since they're securely fastened, well aligned, the metal around them is good, and they're not hard to work around.
Cleaned trunk. Lots of wasted volume back there - I could see why the dual-tank idea came along. Removed gas tank and disconnected line from pump. Scraped about 2l of sand and debris (and the remains of a small wasp nest) from the rear valence - just behind the rear wheels. There are few holes, but some past bondo.

The undercarriage appears to have been once sprayed with a thin coating of black stuff that adheres quite well where it does, and is dry and brittle where it doesn't. The rest of the underside is dry brown surface rust with pockets of hardened dirt, though mostly up front. Easy to scrape and brush down before degreasing and a wash. Differential housing is dirtiest, from leaks.

I look forward to the end of the awkward-squatting-and-stretching phase of this work. It will be nice to stand at a table for a while. Who needs Tai Chi and a small British car? Reminds me of teetering over a well-grown garden patch picking weeds.

Started removing things prior to drivetrain removal. Inside: gearbox covers. Underhood - Offside: thermometer lead at element, horns, tach cable, coil wires, water bottle, oil pressure line. Underhood - Nearside: heater water feed pipes to cylinder, pump, and heater core, generator and starter leads, throttle and choke controls, scuttle bracing tube.
More drivetrain stripping. Underside: exhaust system (will be replaced and is just in the way), propeller shaft, speedo cable. Underhood - Nearside: contrary to what the book says, my headers don't come off without removing the intake manifold, which also requires removing the carbs. Underhood - Offside: now that the nearside was pretty clean, thought I'd pull the distributor, coil and oil filter to make hoisting easier.

Whether it's the dryness, oiliness of certain areas or just plain looseness, almost every nut and bolt turned over the last two nights has been just tight enough. At about 75% of my physical capacity, held for a second before a final gentle pull, there would be a -crack- and the nut/bolt would ease away from its position. The only tight fight was with the header pipes entering the Y-junction.

Front end (suspension at least) appears to be from a Series I (a grease nipple on the upper frame axis). Looks like someone once ran over something that took out the passenger-side wheel somehow and crumpled a bit of the underframe.

Removed engine and gearbox. Easy. Took Dennis a minute to point out how, and Henry and I 10 minutes to wriggle it out with the hoist, an engine lift and a jack.

Started removing/unbolting engine compartment pieces. Heater and/or control valve is plugged, and compartment airflow lever doesn't move the airflow guide door.

Scraped about 6l of crud from the undercarriage and inspected what was left. The frame has been over a few hard lumps that, like the boulders dragged over the prairies during the last Ice Age, have left weathered scars that mask their violent origins. A 1-foot piece of box frame under the passenger side was compressed sideways by something nasty, possibly a curb that may have also damaged the front suspension. None of the corners on the lockwashers for the bolts that hold the suspension to the frame have been turned to lock the bolts, not likely to have been the original shipped condition. Over on the driver side, the rusting floorpan has let water into the box frame below it, causing it to rust at the lower folds and be compressed upwards, since it is a handy jacking point. The plate at the center of the X-frame has been ground shiny by more than thrown sand.

Otherwise, years of dry prairie air and clay-based soils have left the Tomato's belly in remarkable shape. An earlier rust treatment has worked well, adhering tightly to awkward places (the underside of the rear desk) and flaking off easily to reveal nice red paint in most others. The layer is quite thin and we'll apply another coat over it once the body's done. Then, over time, the underside will again be covered by another layer of oily clay dust to resist water even more. Since noticing this effect and mentioning it around, I've since been told of someone's grandfather or someone talking a new car out for a spin in the field to acquire an early start to a new natural undercoat.

Leaks: everywhere there's rubber on the front suspension, the bottom of the differential housing, and the rear shocks.

While removing wheels for cleaning undercarriage, broke a rear-wheel stud. No problem, 4 on the Parts Car suspension. Except, on the rear end, the studs don't clear the brake backing plates. Off with the axle! Remove brake parts, and Dennis tries to pull out the stud mounting plate. No go, it doesn't budge. Off to the 100-ton press people, and it takes that much to pop the plate, bending it a little in the process. Dennis bends it back into shape and the seal looks a little bagged, so it's replaced with one from a local bearing shop. Everything goes back together and on the Tomato and it can finally be washed.

Along the way, have been soaking the underside and engine bay with a degreaser, mixed double-strength. Works for grease, but not much against clay.

Degreased and pressure-washed undercarriage and engine compartment. Everything got a little wet but me: fashionably clad in hooded yellow rain suit ($10 many years ago in California), visor, rubber gloves and hard leather shoes (steel toe on the outside for a bit of trendy chic).

Not very hard to do, with car up on the hoist. Clay responds to nothing but a punishing stream of hot water. Even at that, a thin film remains on the trunk deck and tight spots that simply need to be muscled off where they won't be beaded.

Inspected underside and got a list of parts together. Mostly OK except for upper ball joints, a pricey pair of items.

Removed windshield and steering wheel bits. Loosened dash facia.
Removed gauges from dash facia, and then the facia.

The wiring harness on this end is just fine, though there have been some hacked repairs and mods (for a stereo), and a couple wires left unconnected (like the heater). The whole thing needs to be re-taped and tied.

The firewall appears untouched by the years, and while the fabric separates easily from its glue because of its loose fibre, the glue stays fastened to primed intact metal.

The dash had been painted black over the original grey, with the gauges masked out so there are original paint circles. I'll have to play with some photos before deciding whether to go original or ("cooler") black.

Removed remainder of dash and firewall components: wipers, blower, grommets. Pulled wiring harness through the firewall. Removed dash cover. We're now ready for bead-blasting.
Sorted recently-pulled parts into boxes: Dash, Engine, Long Stuff, Harness, until they can be cleaned prior to service and/or reinstallation.

Separated gearbox from engine and put it aside for best-of-two rebuild. Started stripping motor: starter, generator, hoses (J-hose was thinned and tore easily at a vertex when twisted), clutch (rebuilt last May), upper rad reservoir, water pump. Drained block: fluid was clean.

Head waterways as revealed behind reservoir were very clean, a slight tan colour. Reservoir was missing a bolt. Block waterways revealed behind water pump were also clean. The back of the impeller had some gasket seal and material stuck to it.

Sent what was left of the Tomato off to be bead-blasted. Split drivetrain.
Put motor on stand. Pulled out drivetrain from Parts Car, and washed both. Pulled out gearbox from TM. Three in total, 2 Series Is and my Series II. Crank pulley has had starter nut replaced with a large bolt and three washers. Crankshaft thrust washers are worn.

The Parts Car block is from a Series III Rapier (September 1959-April 1961), its stamped number being B3000757, though its cast number is 1980523, as would be expected for one a little older than the Tomato's. There is an exhaust manifold. The starter and generator have been rebuilt more recently than the Tomato's. The oil filter is unconverted. The water pump and gearbox cases were painted green. The rocker rack looks better than what I remember of the Tomato's: at least there is no play along the shaft. The adjusters look longer.

The Tomato gearbox is a later Series IV model.

Split Parts Car drivetrain and stripped off starter, generator and water pump. Removed head to have a look. This is a high-compression motor.

Removed timing cover, fuel pump, motor mounts, oil filter and distributor bases.

Replaced Parts Car head.

Got Tomato back from bead-blasting. Not too many surprises, except at the amount of bondo left over (solid metal). There has been a prior restoration using lead. There used to be a driver's-side mirror. Floor pans are pitted, but will probably need to be replaced.

Won't be much news for a while now since tomorrow I enter hospital for some restoration work of my own.

Saw the Tomato for the first time since the last time. Can't do much but hobble around and think about it anyway, but Sunny has been at work on a few spots: pulled the badly-bondoed dent in the rear quarter, cut out a section of rocker to make a template, found a bad weld-and-bondo on the front driver headlamp.
Finally getting back to it. Did little more than make a list of the next set of things to do and collect some parts together for bead-blasting. Bodywork has revealed that the Tomato could use a new passenger door (or a lot of bondo).

Of course, now that I need to buy parts (mostly from the US), the Canadian dollar reaches an all-time low against the US dollar.

Stewart had a look at the Parts Car gearbox/overdrive and found gearbox output shaft twisted, and overdrive annulus munched. Also perhaps a seized gear on the mainshaft.
Stripped the block today. Cylinders have been rebored once, with 040 pistons. Ovalled: needs to be done again, the last time for this block without sleeving. Bearings and journal surfaces are good. Crank has been ground and balanced once. Thrust washers are shot (worn to copper). Cylinder 4 had an explosion some time back: the head is pitted. Waterways are decent. Timing chain is stretched.
Stripped head. Valves in good shape.
Sent block, head, and crank off for machining.
Dismantled gearbox from Parts Car. Easy, once you follow instructions. Little bits of metal in the bottom of the case. Rods have been pushed out the wrong way once, so now I have some drifts.
Have been working on interior pieces. Stripped dash of black over grey over YELLOW (a creamy banana shade) with a methanol-based goop. Dash is mostly in good shape, 95% solid bakelite surface, but the 5% missing means a repaint. Too bad. Bakelite steering cowls have no cast skin left, exposing the rough epidermis that will have to be filled with paint rather than ground smooth.
Some catch-up entries: I'm not much of a diarist and things have been going a little slowly.

Engine has been measured: need 060 pistons. 050 would be preferable, but require custom pistons which are beyond me, the car and my pocketbook. Maybe next car. Crank gets an 040/030 rods/mains grind. Camshaft from Parts Car may be suitable.

Head needs new exhaust valves, inserts (guides?) and and hardened seats.

Bodywork was finally re-started. Got two big packages on the same day. Pans in one, passenger door in another. After working in the cyber realm so much, I'm amazed that a 4'x2'x1' wooden box with a door that used to be on someone else's car travels all the way up from Chicago to the land-of-not-many-people to become a part of my car. Pans came in a big flat pack, carried by national post across the country, unharmed. Beaten into shape by Rob Martel, fronts and backs. Outer sills still on the way as of this date. More on these later.

Interior plods along slowly, one step/piece at a time. Have pressboards for door panels and a supposedly-original door for a template (the door latch to window winder centers are not the same. Once the passenger door comes off I can use it to fine-tune a template. Wheel is being varnished with spar varnish, enough to fill in most cracks and pits. Then I can wrap it and move on to the aluminum spokes. Then wrap the spokes and treat the leather.

Made a paint "booth" from a refrigerator box, free from a local appliance shop. With an old minicomputer fan pulling air through a dishcloth it makes a cheap way to paint cleanly in a carpeted room.

The Parts Car block is only slightly off std on pistons, washers and bearings. But, it's a 1494 Rapier (1959) so of little use for block items. It has been rebuilt once - there are marks on the rods and the block for reassembly. Everything down below looks pretty good. Haven't looked up top, but lifters are worn from abuse, I think: there are chips around the edges and the cam-contact surfaces are crackled as though the surface has taken a beating. [One construction difference: the Rapier lifters have a notch at the top of one of the cylinder walls.] Oil pump hood has been pushed back onto the pump stem, but could be hammered out. Pump doesn't turn as well as Tomato pump, but otherwise looks as good. Oil pan has baffle and filler hole damage.

Checked oil pump. Turns smoothly, lobe maximas clear within spec, outer ring clearance needs checking (no skinny feelers).

Painted (or will paint):

  • windshield blower vents with gloss-black rust paint.
  • blower hoses with flat-black Varathane Colours in Plastic.
  • dash, steering cowls and glovebox trim with exterior automotive vinyl paint.
  • wheel with exterior spar varnish (about 8 coats, sanded between with 220).
  • glovebox with brush-applied satin finish Varathane followed with spray.
Bodywork: Doors are off, gutted and being prepared. Rear is almost complete: just a little skin work left. Passenger rear floor is out. Sills should arrive from Rob by Tuesday. Front clip will be a problem: some tight crumpling in the nose bar on the left from (a) previous crash(es).

Engine: Still working out where to get parts, but likely SS this week.

Starting to clean and prepare parts for reinstallation. The idea is to have as much as possible waiting refurbished in bags for that fateful day when all the screws (and their attachments) start going back in. Fortunately, have a beading cabinet (two, actually) handy via a client, and am using them to full advantage. Up next is a round of painting.

Gearbox: have decent innards coming from Kevin in Seattle

Electrical: getting a rebuilt alternator, and will switch to negative ground.

Reassembled Parts Car engine (sans pushrods and camshaft).

Doors are done. Trunk lid is done. Passenger rear floor is trimmed out and waiting to be panelled. I kinda like cutting and grinding - there's something satisfying in buzzing through metal like it was butter.
Passenger rear floor is roughed in. Hood is sanded, dents over the hinges pulled out and skimmed. Sills arrived in a box like an electric guitar case. Engine parts ordered from Sunbeam Specialties.
Front hood is complete. Rear pans are in. Front passenger pan is out.

There is a certain peace to be found in peeling, cutting and grinding metal from metal, head encased in goggles, mask and earmuffs, sparks and smells and raw ripping power tearing atoms from atoms. Scraping off welds with an air-powered die grinder has to be as close to zen metalworking as is possible, hardened teeth throwing flakes of hot metal from a smooth sculptured harder-than-hard surface like a Vulcanic salad-shooter.

Blew a couple buckets worth of blasting beads from every box section and crevice. Then did it again.
Floors are all in and welds smoothed. Doors are back on so we can tackle sills. There's rust through the metal fore and aft of each sill (rocker), so there's some metal-bending to do. Also some inner sill rot, mostly due to a volume-Bondo patch job over hack welding some time back.
Driver-side rear inner sill replaced. Buzzed off most of the old bondo left on the car.
First batch of parts comes from Sunbeam Specialties for engine, suspension and (some) gearbox.
Finally some new outer metal - driver-side inner and outer sills, and fore and aft patches, are in place. Fortunately, curb-side sills are not so bad. Sunny does a great job, with some second opinion and hole preparation from me. The end is looking closer. There's really no magic: just plain hard work.
All sills now on and mostly prepared for surfacing. Patches also made to lower sections of wheel wells, to 9" high. Fabricated a 3" high 16ga battery tray. Warren started front suspension with driver side. Have enough replacement pieces, but need some pressing done.
Passenger front suspension off, and everything's out to be pressed, courtesy of Warren. Passenger sills are mostly prepped for surfacing. Rear shocks are off.
Sills are essentially complete, both sides. The car looks more like a car now. Now we head on to the front, to pull some frame for the passenger side of the badge bar, and smooth out some kinks. Can't get replacement metal soon enough, so we do it the old-fashioned way: pull and hammer.
Floors are being prepped for etch-priming and seam-sealing. This consists of a lot of awkward scraping, followed by noxious solvents, interspersed with wire-brushing and vacuuming. Lord knows how much extra work there would have been had the car not been bead-blasted and the floors replaced.
An accomplishment: front suspension/steering re-fit with new upper ball joints, lower fulcrum pins, outer ball joints, a swivel pin repair kit, and new shocks. Took a bit of work, and some (expensive) pressing. Warren was a big help, even though he muffed the swivel pins and we had to pull and switch them. Wheel stops need tuning. A prior encounter with a large bump or something bent the lower pin of the passenger-side shock, and opened up the narrow end of the A-arm slightly, as well as folding one arm of the frame cross-member.
The Tub is now covered in a puke-yellow etch primer, after a wash-down with a strong solvent. Didn't have time to admire much since it was my 7th wedding anniversary (and the Oilers were whupping Colorado in game 7). Mailed off a Money Order for a proper steering cowl. Good thing I didn't finish the old one.

A gearbox+OD arrives from Rob Martel, looking good.

Started cleaning up intake and exhaust ports on head. Easy, and like grinding welds, involving enough to let hours pass by unnoticed.

Sunny starts pulling crumples at the front. I start seam-sealing the Tub.

More seam-sealing. Sunny welds over pull holes and I grind 'em flat. The front end starts looking like it's supposed to.
More seam-sealing. Front bar and valance welds made and ground. More head grinding and polishing.
Seam-sealing complete on the Tub. Managed to get all of them, with a lot of bending and contorting. Front bar and D-side fender repairs complete. Hood fitted, but not well yet. Still some front bar pulling to do.
Hood is fitted, after some skin replacement on the front bar, some stretching and shrinking, hammering, and a whole lot of standing and looking. It seems as though the hood is not meant to properly fit the hole that's provided for it. Both last and this year's Victoria British cover cars don't have perfect hoods either.
Seam-sealing of the tub and trunk is finally complete, in that I can't see any more places to shoot or squeeze goop into. Scraped old undercoat from D-F wheel well. Sunny is mudding the front now, so it's Dusty for a little while. Just starting to mask the engine bay for priming.
The car is effectively mudded. Only some touch-ups to do, and masking, before priming. Scraped P-F wheel well.
Greased the front suspension. Scraped, sanded and brushed all four wheel wells.
All body skin work is complete. Engine bay and front suspension are masked, ready for a wipe and priming.
PRIMED. Etch primer on bare metal, hi-solid over that. Such a relief (though I'm too tired to actually feel anything right now) to turn this corner.
INSIDE PAINT. ICI RS628, a brilliant red paint that was the closest visual match to paint found behind the top-cover panel padding. Body, doors and pieces (very few, actually). Muffed the top-cover door by painting the wrong side, but we'll get that in a re-shoot after the car is moved to Henry's garage.
MOVED. The chassis anyway, to Henry's garage.
ALL MOVED. A couple trips in the afternoon, and all was relocated. Having a Parts Car added a few more boxes and bits. Then spent the evening drinking beer and burning all the wood we could find (around the shop).

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JOY/CVP/YSEV/0.31 - November 7, 1999