“RESTORATION IS BOTH AN ART FORM AND ALSO A SCIENCE. LIKE PRODUCING GREAT ART, IT CANNOT BE HASTENED.”
ALLEN LIM, ON THE NECESSITY OF TEDIUM IN THE RESTORATION PROCESS
great relief, they hit it off. Although the drivetrain was in good mechanical condition and the bodywork mostly rust-free, he decided he needed to “tropicalise” the car for use here. As the car was more than 50 years old, it was sensible, he says, to embark on a full restoration to give it the best chance of lasting another 50.
“Restoration is both an art form and also a science,” he explains. “Like producing great art, it cannot be hastened. Like a science, it must be systematic. Corners cannot be cut.”
So he started by taking the car apart. Then, he had the engine painstakingly rebuilt to restore the horses that bolted from the stable through years of wear and tear, and, more importantly, to ensure that it could cope with Singapore’s start-stop traffic and hot and humid climate.
The brake, electrical and fuel systems were checked and serviced. Components that could be restored were rescued, but perishables such as the fuel tank and fuel lines were renewed.
With the mechanicals sorted, Lim moved onto what he regarded as the most challenging part of the endeavour: the body and interior. He sandblasted the body panels to strip it of old paint, allowing him to remove the rust and properly repair the rotten areas. He spent an “inordinate amount of time” to get the structural integrity of the car correct – drivability is vital, he says, as he intended not to baby the car but to use it regularly.
The detailing was also demanding on this craftsman. Typical of the era, the car is heavily appointed with chrome and wood inlays. They had to be removed for reworking, but they were attached to the car using delicate clips. An unskilled hand, he says, could easily break the fasteners and render the parts worthless.
For the wood inserts, he relied on a skilled carpenter to fill up the damaged surfaces and to varnish them, bringing out the wood grain. He goes on: “There are numerous coats of varnish on the wood inserts. Each layer is hand painted with long strokes. When it dries, you sand the layer down and then apply the next layer. It is only this old-fashioned method that allows you to have this almost mirror-like sheen.”
In a consistent refrain, Lim shares that the car remains an ongoing project for him, it having not “reached perfection” in his eyes. But it could be too that he is in no particular hurry, having yet to meet his one true love. Circling back to that delicious little number at the beginning of the story, he says: “I am still looking for the ideal 190 SL.”
GOLDEN TUNES Lim’s 220s houses an original Becker AM radio, framed by chrome and wood inlays that were all the rage in the ’50s.