Alex Holden (alex_holden) wrote,
Alex Holden

Fenchurch has passed her exams!

Last week we fitted the new wheels, painted and reassembled the rear bumper, did a few other small MOT-preparation jobs, then spent two evenings welding patches under Fenchurch's body. In the end we plated the entire underside of the right hand sill, plus a little bit of the floor pan just behind the end of the right hand sill. That last patch was a bit annoying - I'd just finished all the sill welding and was wire-brushing the area and looking closely at the weld, when the brush revealed a tiny hole a couple of inches further on. I prodded it lightly and my thumb went through! One final patch and Fenchurch was ready for her exams.

I know some will probably decry me for plating the rotten metal instead of cutting it all out and replacing it with repair sections, but I did the best I could and fitting repair sections is beyond my skill level right now. I can't afford to pay a professional to do it for me either. Plating should be good enough, combined with paint and regular Waxoyling, to last a few years at least, after which I will hopefully be either skilled enough or rich enough to do it properly. Right now I think it's better to do the plating and get her back on the road, than to leave her off the road until either my welding skills or my bank balance have improved. I have noticed a significant improvement in my welding skills since I started working on Fenchurch BTW.

On Wednesday I phoned Adrian Flux, literally with my credit card in my hand, ready to take out the surprisingly low quote they'd offered me. OK it was labelled an estimate, but how different could the real quote be really? Erm, how about triple the amount? It seems they'd calculated the estimate using different information to what I supplied on the quote request form. I told her I would have to get some more quotes first. To give you some idea of how much I hate dealing with car insurance companies, I started to feel physically sick at this point. Nevertheless I pressed on and called Aon, the company the Morris Minor Owner's Club recommend. They gave me a quote that was even higher than Adrian Flux's second quote, and weren't inclined to reduce it at all. Then I called Footman James and got a much more reasonable quote - not quite as good as Adrian Flux's first "estimate" but still pretty good, and with some nice extras (free breakdown cover, free legal cover, unlimited mileage, a low excess). I told the guy at Footman James I just needed to try one more company (Heritage), and he confidently predicted they wouldn't match his offer, and asked if he could call back in 15 minutes. Sure enough Heritage asked for a few details and my best quote so far, then said "Oh, I won't be able to beat that - I'd go with Footman James if I were you." So I took out the Footman James offer. The paperwork arrived yesterday and it all sounds pretty standard. They're a broker and the actual insurance (in this case) is provided by NIS. I don't know much about them, but at least they're not the Aviva Group who I said I would never willingly deal with again after they let me down so badly after my accident earlier this year. I had to relate that tale again three times - Adrian Flux, Aon, and Footman James all wanted to know how much the value of my previous claim was, and when I told them I don't know because Norwich Union Direct never replied to my letter asking them for that information, they wanted me to describe the accident in detail so they could put down an estimated cost.

Wednesday night I had trouble sleeping, then Thursday morning I was feeling very nervous. Even though logically I knew I'd gone over her with a fine tooth comb, I still worried I might have missed something obvious, or the gearbox or rear axle would blow up (the two main things we couldn't test properly in the garage). As soon as I set off to the MOT garage, my nerves vanished. This is a familiar pattern for me - it's always the anticipation that gets my nerves going; once I'm actually doing the thing I was nervous about I'm fine. Fenchurch ran flawlessly, climbing the steep hill up to the top of the valley ("going over the tops" we call it locally) at a brisk 40MPH in third gear. I saw one other Moggy driver and waved at her, but she just looked confused and didn't wave back. Five miles later I pulled into the MOT car park with a big grin on my face, then went and caught the bus to work. A few hours later I got a call to say that she'd passed with flying colours, and the test examiner was impressed with the condition she's in!

I took Thursday and Friday night off to rest, then on Saturday I started looking closer at what needs to be done to sort out her cosmetics (woodwork, paintwork, brightwork, carpets, etc.). Quite a lot, it seems. I was hoping I might get away with just spraying up the bits that have rust starting to bubble through the paint, but on closer inspection there isn't a single panel that I would call perfect, plus there is the problem that if I just resprayed sections, then the parts I didn't respray would look dull and faded next to the new parts. So it looks like a full respray is on the cards, not something which I've done before. I've sprayed small parts with spray cans, but never a full vehicle. I have access to a large dry garage with a big compressor in it, and my dad knows where he can borrow a professional spraygun, so space and equipment isn't a problem. I just need to figure out the best place to buy the colour-matched cellulose paint from, do loads of preparation, then learn to spray properly.

I know what I'm going to do with the woodwork, but I'm not totally certain what order to do things in. At the moment I'm thinking I might sand down and bleach the wood, then leave it untreated (in the dry garage) while I do all the paintwork, then come back to oiling the wood after the respray. That way if any of the bleach gets on the paintwork and damages it, it'll be before the respray, but by postponing oiling the wood until after the respray there's no risk of the oil getting onto the paintwork and contaminating the new paint.

Yesterday, after examining the existing paintwork, I cleaned up the new welds, drilled new drain holes in the sill, then started on the lengthy process of wire brushing, degreasing, rust-killing, priming, painting, and Waxoyling (or Dinitrolling - I haven't decided which to use yet) Fenchurch's underside. So far I've got up to the rust-killing stage on about 1/6th of the surface area. I can tell this is going to be a long and dirty job (you should have seen my face before I had a shower last night), but it's very important to do a good job of rustproofing the underside if I don't want her to rot away as soon as I start using her day-to-day, in wet conditions on salted roads.

To finish up, here is a picture of Fenchurch yesterday after I'd given her a quick wash (no wax) to allow me to examine her paintwork better:

OK, I admit I did play with the saturation a bit to make the paintwork look a bit less faded. She doesn't look quite as good as that in person. You may have noticed that I've also updated my userpic icon to feature another photo from the same session.

I'm probably going to stop doing weekly blow-by-blow updates now that I'm no longer on the death-march to get her MOTed before the end of September, and will instead just post when I've completed something significant.
Tags: fenchurch, morris minor, photos

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