Unique Cars - - CONTENTS - JON FAINE

DO YOU IM­PRO­VISE as you work on your car? Or are you the type who fa­nat­i­cally fol­lows the step-by-step pro­ce­dures in the man­ual?

I have re­vived the coach build­ing ex­er­cise on the 1926 Citroen B2. I am making a boat-tail body to go on the farm hack chas­sis I bought years ago. My car as bought had no struc­ture at all aft of the front seat. Me­chan­i­cally the old girl was in­tact and the mo­tor run­ning. I am bas­ing my project on a Citroen B2 ‘Caddy’, of which 300 were made. Ru­mours per­sist that at least one ex­am­ple made it to Aus­tralia. I am pre­tend­ing that mine re­vives the ex­tinct breed. I want to fin­ish the project by 2026 in time for it to get a tele­gram from the King.

It is a typical body style of the time. A high cowl pro­vid­ing cover for the dash panel with min­i­mal in­stru­ments, and a wide waist that ta­pers to a duck­tail. In pro­file, a swage line runs along the hor­i­zon­tal level, and the top deck drops down to meet the f lanks at a nice pointy end that over­hangs the rear of the chas­sis. It looks like a chocolate eclair – how very French ! The curves of the f lanks are in three di­men­sions – ver­ti­cal, hor­i­zon­tal and ta­per­ing all at once. There is a tran­si­tion curve start­ing some­where around the door and the B post. It goes from


con­vex at the front to con­cave at the rear. The pro­file of the cur­va­ture changes as you get closer to the duck­tail. De­gree of dif­fi­culty = 93.5 ! !

There are no plans. I’ve been un­able to lo­cate any draw­ings. I do have some pho­tos, and have scaled up some draw­ings from those. Since I know the size of a wheel and tyre, I can cal­cu­late the di­men­sions of other parts from that. But it turns out the ex­er­cise is a whole lot more com­pli­cated, and there are zero man­u­als on how to coach build a boat-tail body from scratch.

I’m now on my third version of a buck. The first two have been tossed aside as good learning ex­pe­ri­ences, ex­per­i­ments and trial runs. They were some­what lop­sided and wonky.

I know that I am far from pro­fes­sional, and miles away from the tech­niques adopted by some­one who knows what they are do­ing. I am lit­er­ally making it up as I go. I am spend­ing as lit­tle money on the buck as I can man­age. Af­ter all, it is all go­ing to get thrown away.

The buck is cut from MDF with a band­saw and a jig­saw. The pro­file, the spine of the buck, is carved from a huge sheet of MDF marked up from a 1:1 draw­ing, which it­self was scaled up on trac­ing paper, the out­line based on a pe­riod Citroen fac­tor y press photo. I’ve made lit­tle wedges to hold the hor­i­zon­tal ribs in place, spaced at 100mm in­ter­vals as marked on the spine.

The ta­pers – both ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal – were guessed by at­tach­ing the end of a thin alu­minium strip to one end of what­ever panel was be­ing carved and then fix­ing the bow as best as I could with clamps. It grad­u­ally came to­gether, and then I de­cided to cre­ate the in­fill with hard­ware shop bat­tens, as thin as I could buy. They bend with­out snap­ping and adopt a nice gen­tle curve. I found a great lit­tle sta­ple gun that shoots tiny pins to se­cure the thin strips to the MDF ribs, but the rib­bons of tim­ber are too springy and keep pop­ping.

In­spired by the San Fran­cisco Golden Gate bridge, I de­vised a fas­ten­ing sys­tem that if patented would fill the fam­ily cof­fers and pro­vide the grand­chil­dren with a for­tune to frit­ter away on he­do­nis­tic waste. Thin gar­den­ing wire is an­chored un­der the f loor by a nail and fed up­wards through a small hole. Then, un­der ten­sion, the other end is wrapped around the bat­ten to hold it in place. Cheques – crossed please – can be sent care of the editor.

Now I have the shape about right, I have made card­board tem­plates of all the curves in ev­ery plane, mea­sured ev­ery­thing twice and taken a mil­lion pho­tos. Now the plan is to dis­card the buck, paint the chas­sis, then to re­store, paint and in­stall all the run­ning gear, stand the chas­sis on its wheels and bolt on a ra­di­a­tor. Then all I have to do is band­saw the 60 or 70 hard­wood frame pieces and as­sem­ble the jig­saw puz­zle to cre­ate a solid base for skin­ning in steel.

Piece of cake, ought be done by Christ­mas. Christ­mas 2026.

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