November 1990 to May 1991 - Restoring 'Bee'

Considering that the car had lived outside for several years and was used in all weathers it wasn't in too bad a condition. The passenger floor was holed in several places, the sills, castle rails and cross-member had all been replaced before, not too well though. I did consider cutting out the sills and refitting/replacing them, but as 'Bee' was intended to be a drivers car and not a concourse queen I decided I would leave them till they needed doing again. The rear RHS lower quarter panel also needed replacing, but other than that it just needed some small patches welding in various places where filler had been used. The drivers door had the 'crack of doom'. After much study I decided there was a design weakness in that the flange that supports the outer rubber seal ends just before the quarter-light strut. I welded a small piece in such that it extended the flange alongside the quarter-light strut and round the front, meeting up with another flange. You might get a idea better from these images. Subsequently I saw a Heritage door that seemed to be constructed in just this manner. I also used a large oval plate behind the door skin to support the door mirror, it has a slightly larger radius than the door skin, so bracing the mirror over a large area. I also made sure that the quarter-light frame only just touched the rubber seal on the windscreen when the door was closed, to give some room for scuttle-shake over rough surfaces. I spent absolutely hours realigning doors and front wings with the rear wing crease - it's much better than it was but the drivers door still drops a little when opening even though I increased the size of the hinge fixing holes when I ran out of adjustment.

I found when I started stripping the paint back that 'Bee' had been re-painted at least four times (the original Black Tulip every time, glad to say) - that's about 20 coats of paint! My painter said that even with his best efforts it might not be possible to completely disguise the edges of all the previous coats, so recommended stripping right back to the base metal. Suited me.

All the chrome was pitted to varying degrees, the interior panels were of the wrong type and water damaged, the seats had 'deckchair' covers (fortunately in grey, not orange) and the carpets were Cyril Lords finest twist-pile (unfortunately in orange). I retained the instruments (repainted the dash), console, steering wheel and windscreen, but replaced everything else including bumpers, grill, light units, handles/locks, badges and switches. I chickened out of fitting the correct Yellow Ocre interior trim and settled for black throughout. I used the 1973 GT seat covers as they were fabric-faced rather than the all-vinyl which is correct for the roadster - more comfortable in the summer.

That left the wheels. They were tatty Rostyles, which would definitely need stripping and painting - ideally powder coating. Trouble was, I fancied chrome wires. I debated long and hard, and decided they would look really good against the Black Tulip, so splashed out about a grand for wheels, hubs and spinners. Turned out to be a very good decision, even though it does take over an hour to properly wash, dry and polish each wheel.

I reckoned on six months of evenings and weekends single-handed to complete the job and it took me seven. However I had to wait a month to borrow a MIG welder, during which time I couldn't do much else, so my estimate was good. Stripping was straight-forward. Cutting back the paint from the edges of all the rust patches was the longest and dirtiest job, cold and cramped, too, in an unheated single-width garage. After that, welding was making forward progress again, and while she was away being painted gave me the opportunity to obtain all the new and shiny bits. Fitting out was exciting - not to mention a bit nerve-racking offering up and securing things like windscreen and bumpers single-handed!

Was it worth it? Very definitely! Would I do it again? Ditto!