Nick Larkin

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Scared to fet­tle? Nick tells you how to gain a lit­tle con­fi­dence.

It’s not nec­es­sary that the pur­chaser of a Ming vase knows how to fire a kiln, or pe­riod home buy­ers be pro­fi­cient in re­plac­ing a wat­tle and daub wall, strip out lead wa­ter pipes, fill in a well or hop up a lad­der to re­point an an­cient chim­ney stack. Or in­deed learn how to grow honey­suckle around the front door and keep chick­ens. Or know how to track down ghosts.

Un­less you are an ex­pert, rich and/or very stupid, you’ll find some­where not need­ing mas­sive work. But you will need to know ba­sic main­te­nance, or at least know when it’s due.

So why don’t peo­ple ap­ply such philoso­phies to clas­sic cars? Mo­tor­ing scribes are reg­u­larly asked whether a would-be clas­sic owner should take the plunge. How easy will it be to re­build the car’s en­gine and strip the body down to a bare shell?

Well, the an­swer is to buy a clas­sic that prob­a­bly won’t need those things in the near fu­ture – well cer­tainly not all at once.

Un­less you re­ally are into restora­tion and have cer­tain skills, you are al­ways bet­ter off buy­ing a clas­sic you can en­joy while tak­ing pride in car­ry­ing out ba­sic main­te­nance and learn­ing as you go.

All this is ba­si­cally the phi­los­o­phy be­hind an ex­cel­lent course, which started re­cently at the British Mo­tor Mu­seum.

Get­ting stuck in

The one-day Liv­ing with a Clas­sic work­shop is for any­one who has re­cently bought their first ve­hi­cle. There are three sec­tions. Care of Your Clas­sic gives stu­dents ad­vice on how to look after body and paint­work, while a sec­ond looks at road­side re­pairs be­fore a third – in the ben­e­fi­cial sur­round­ings of the mu­seum work­shops – goes into ser­vic­ing and main­te­nance.

A fourth finds stu­dents re­build­ing a 1967 Borg Warner au­to­matic gear­box in two hours, or they’ll get no lunch. Oops, wrong course!

Ad­di­tion­ally the Fed­er­a­tion of British His­toric Ve­hi­cle Clubs is all for mem­ber or­gan­i­sa­tions run­ning cour­ses for their own mem­bers, or in the early stages of plan­ning some­thing.

The ac­cent here is on the word ‘main­te­nance’, you may no­tice. Ob­vi­ously I have writ­ten count­less ar­ti­cles cov­er­ing own­ers mas­sive restora­tion projects and I am left in awe at the skills some peo­ple have.

But, and I’m sure you’ll be dum­founded by this rev­e­la­tion, many of the jobs needed to re­store a clas­sic are ex­tremely dif­fi­cult. Weld­ing, paint­ing and up­hol­stery are three very dif­fer­ent skills, and are many peo­ple are that bril­liant at all three?

To be hon­est, many re­stor­ers have been around cars un­der re­pair since they were kids, or com­pleted ap­pren­tice­ships at garages, etc. How­ever, there’s no need to be able to do all these things.

Hav­ing said that, a clear head, the ap­pro­pri­ate back is­sues of Prac­ti­cal Clas­sics and an oilimpreg­nated Haynes Man­ual can, if you have ac­cess to the right tools, plus prac­tice, fi­nally re­sult in some ma­jor achieve­ments.

Chang­ing times

It was, a state­ment from co­or­di­na­tor of the British Mo­tor Mu­seum course, Bob Wilkin­son of the Clas­sic Vir­gins Day and Clas­sic Car Loan project scheme, that re­ally hit home. ‘We would en­cour­age clas­sic clubs to of­fer main­te­nance cour­ses to their mem­bers to give peo­ple the con­fi­dence to carry out work on their ve­hi­cles.’ Did you see the im­por­tant word in there? C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E!

That is so true. I’m sure there have been peo­ple on a gas-weld­ing course who blurted out: ‘Wow this weld­ing is easy!’ be­fore a mush­room cloud rose above their garage. But be care­ful, read ev­ery­thing there is to read, re­alise your lim­its, take ad­vice and… just get on with it!

‘Read up on things, re­alise your lim­its, take ad­vice and… just get on with it!’

An in­no­va­tive course for new clas­sic own­ers has made Nick re­alise the one word most im­por­tant to would-be re­stor­ers. Nick Larkin has ap­peared in many clas­sic car (and a few bus) pub­li­ca­tions since 1989. He joinedPrac­ti­cal Clas­sics in 1996, and re­mains a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor.

NICK LARKIN

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