The spe­cial­ist

Coach­builder Daniel Long­ford loves to mix tra­di­tional with mod­ern tech­niques in his Hamp­shire work­shop


For a youngish bloke – although he’s been in the busi­ness for 20 years – Daniel Long­ford Clazey has an im­pres­sive car CV be­hind him. He’s made bod­ies for Alfa 8Cs and one of Jim Stokes’ new Alfa 158s, and he’s de­signed and built a se­ries of one-offs, the lat­est of which is the el­e­gant Lagonda Rapier shown here: “The owner had some idea of the cars he likes, such as the Peter Wen­man Za­gatostyled Rapier and the Type 54 Bu­gatti Bache­lia,” says Long­ford. “I used a coach­builder’s draw­ing, low­ered the ra­di­a­tor and drew out the new design to scale – it’s a use­ful way of check­ing wheel travel. I then scaled it up from there.”

It sounds so easy, but Long­ford has worked with and learned from the best: “I spent 10 years at an As­ton Martin spe­cial­ist, but moved down here to the New For­est to gain more ex­pe­ri­ence on a broader range of cars.” He’d started amass­ing tools be­fore his move, and there’s an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of three wheel­ing ma­chines as well as the usual rollers and fold­ers, plus a full set of 40 pro­files, or sweeps, hang­ing from the wall in the light and airy work­shop: “Each one is curved more than the last, which you use to make sure the curves are the same on both sides. Do it once, and do it right.

“I use two wheel­ing ma­chines to­gether be­cause it’s quicker – one usu­ally has a flat­ter wheel for the main body of the panel and the other has a higher crown for the curved ar­eas. I’ve con­verted the smaller wheel to run a kart tyre and had lower wheels made to my spec­i­fi­ca­tion. I can vary the pres­sure and there­fore the con­tact area on the panel, so I can move a ra­dius such as in the run­ning boards on the cur­rent job.”

The mid­dle ma­chine was made in the ’20s by Ranalah, and the next job in is a Rapier with a Ranalah body: “It’s great to be us­ing a wheel from the same com­pany that made the coach­work, and it may have made the ac­tual body.”

There’s a band­saw, too, to cut tem­plates and ash frames: “On the wood­work, I’ve had a lot of help from my friend in the north-east, Ge­off Hen­der­son, a retired coach­builder. He was good enough to give me his draw­ings for the Ab­bot­t­bod­ied Rapiers, among oth­ers.”

Steel frames are an op­tion, too. “That’s the Ital­ian style, and it takes up less space,” says Long­ford. He’s not averse to in­cor­po­rat­ing mod­ern ma­te­ri­als to do a bet­ter job: “I like to pro­duce an orig­i­nal car, but one that is dis­creetly im­proved with mod­ern tech­nolo­gies – with the owner’s con­sent – such as bond­ing as well as wrap­ping alu­minium skins, to give a stronger frame that’s sealed from the wet, and us­ing mod­ern com­pounds to stop gal­vanic cor­ro­sion.”

Long­ford con­sid­ers his chas­sis jig to be cru­cial – his own Alvis 12/70 is cur­rently sit­ting on it, wait­ing for a re­build: “It’s re­ally im­por­tant. It’s fairly nor­mal to find some ac­ci­dent dam­age on an 80- or 90-year-old car, and it is es­sen­tial to have a solid, straight base to work from. For­tu­nately a lad­der chas­sis doesn’t re­quire a huge amount of en­ergy to straighten, but the jig also has a hy­draulic ram and pulling arm if needed. It then be­comes the da­tum for the frame build, and pro­vides a level base to mea­sure from and give an ac­cu­rate body.

“The Rapier had been dam­aged and then badly re­paired – which was picked up and straight­ened when it was on the jig.”

Each body takes up to a year: “The next job will take me un­til March, and the Rapier owner has just bought a His­pano-suiza V8 air­craft en­gine, so he wants me to find a chas­sis.” Which means the Alvis isn’t get­ting a look-in for now.

Clockwise from main: Long­ford is cur­rently cre­at­ing a be­spoke Lagonda Rapier; one of his three wheel­ing ma­chines; work­ing on a new tim­ber frame; taking mea­sure­ments from a scale draw­ing

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