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Sunbeam Talbot

Sunbeam_Talbot__90The Sunbeam Talbot was owned by a farmer who had passed away, and since 1967 had remained dormant after serving as a family runabout and pig-trailertowcar. It had been proposed to enter it for beach races at Mablethorpe until a broken gearbox prevented the idea.

Any form of motorsport would have been a befitting end, as Peter was accurately told by the vendor that MWK17 was an ex-Rootes works car, driven by Stirling Moss in the 1953 Monte Carlo, where it took second place, with Desmond Scannell and John Cooper sharing the success. MWK's identity was later confirmed by Dick Edmond, who was co-drove it with Edwin Elliott in the 1953 Alpine Rally.
Despite the car's illustrious history, Peter's neighbour, a retired scrap dealer, was totally dismissive of this car standing any chance of making it back onto the road.

Getting started

Stripping out the car revealed torn seats and rusty holes. The front doors refused to close as the floor and sills, which should have held the pillars in place, had rotted way. Getting the doors to close involved repositioning the door pillars and firmly strapping them with timber, allowing rot in the floor pan to be cut out and replaced. Work was bolstered by fitting new sills.

Further surgery involved replacement of the floor panel over the differential, work that involved strengthening the underside with angled steel sections. This most difficult task was cautiously approached with the body still on the chassis.

"My next job was to remove the bumpers, tow bar, what remained of the front valance, bonnet, wings and grille.

The rest of the bodyshell was kept in place, as it was better to repair the panels with the body sat on its suspension and the chassis to keep the lines correct. The doors were removed one at a time, and I made new bottoms for these before they were re-hung."

The rear wheelarches rotted out due to water collecting in the hinge boxes courtesy of perished sunroof hoses. New steel was welded in, and a note made to replace the troublesome drainage hoses.

The rebate along the edge of the boot holding the rubber seal was badly corroded and was repaired by letting in new sections of carefully bent channelling along the tricky curved top corners.
Sunbeam Talbot

Other repairs were needed to the boot floor, including the missing toolkit holder and attention to the boot lid, which still had holes where the Monte Carlo rally plates were fitted. The boot also retained a set of leather covered brackets for securing a spade mounted to the back of the rear seat, which would have come in handy for digging the car out of snow in February 1953.

Unlikely hero

After enlisting a heavy gang to lift the body off the chassis, it was set on its side, with the roof resting against an old mattress supported by Peter's garage wall - allowing full access for repairs.

" Most of the nuts and bolts had seized solid, so plenty of penetrating fluid was bought plus a couple of small two-tonne jacks and an angle grinder. I borrowed a MIG welder from an engineering works whenever I needed it." The chassis was in fairly good order, as only a couple of the outriggers required repairs - the overall structure was strengthened by attending to a weak spot in the transmission tunnel where the propshaft passes, also weld repairing two large cracks in the main section of the chassis, forward of the engine, which could date to a crash during the 1953 Alpine Rally when it was retired due to accident damage.

The spare wheelpan was shot, and replaced by fabricating another deepened by 20mm to allow an inflated tyre to be stowed properly.

Renting a powerful grit blaster and generator allowed for closer inspection of the underside once the rust had been removed, and allowed major fabrication and welding repairs to begin. Building up the suspension proved significant, and the chassis was raised clear of the ground at the back after the rear leaf springs had been stripped, cleaned, rebushed and bolted into place. The differential was stripped, cleaned and reassembled with new parts as deemed appropriate.
Rallying evidence

The rally-spec fuel tank had a protective guard secured by strips of wood holding it clear of the fuel tank. Over the years, they had absorbed water, peppering the tank with pinholes. A new stainless-steel tank came via the Sunbeam Talbot Owners' Club and the guard was replaced, without the wood.

Dick Edmonds mentioned a large dent in the chassis when he viewed MWK, and recalled this was due to hitting a large rock in the Dolomites on the Alpine Rally. This was
summarily remedied with a few blows from a large sledge hammer.

The chassis was zinc etch primed and painted in corrosion-resistant silver paint - although unusual it is original, as revealed when any securing bolts were removed.

There was further evidence of repairs following the 1953 Alpine crash, as the front scuttle had been roughly beaten back into shape. This supported Peter's conviction that the main body was never removed from the chassis at the time.

After stripping all the paint off the body panels, the bare metal was treated with a phosphoric based zinc-etching preparation coat.

Nine months in, to allay fears he wouldn't enjoy the finished car, Peter bought an identical '52 Mark IIA in a very sound, roadworthy condition. All turned out well after Peter persuaded his wife a good way of spending their wedding anniversary was by collecting this car. This second car provided invaluable reference on putting the first one back together.

Plenty to do

Another milestone was removal of the seized engine, and although it was possible to free the pistons, Peter decided professional attention was required, so all the parts were sent off to be rebuilt with all-new parts including pistons and a reground crankshaft.

Restoring the braking system meant new parts all round and the master cylinder overhauled. This revealed more the car's rallying days, as the master cylinder located at chassis height was protected by a skid plate and a heavy-duty rubber gaiter around the steering idler.

The dashboard went to bare metal and was repainted. The bottoms of the front seats were repaired with new leather, and the seats and door cards re-coloured to
match the originals using a low pressure spray gun.

A professional car trimmer tackled the carpets and roof lining - Peter knewhis skills' limits.

The original wiring loom was sent off and copied - a standard wiring chart not being suitable, as provision was required for the rally fog lights and hooded spotlights.

The car has two windscreen washer systems: one for the driver, one for the co-driver. The water reservoir for the co-driver had to be replaced, and other rally mods included a horn push for the co-driver, a pressed metal plate incorporating the switches for the Lucas Flame-thrower driving lamp, twin fog lamps, a map light and also the distributor advance. Further Rootes works rally adaptations included twinned Lucas screen heaters attached to the windscreen by rubber sucker; a nearside door pillar lamp for examining road signs and essential rally timing clocks.
(The bodywork was zinc-etch primed with five coats of primer and given four coats of the correct cellulose
black gloss.

Dedication pays off

Peter estimates between five and eight man hours were spent on each and every day of the restoration over a solid two year period, with many demonstrative lessons learnt along the way.

Was it all worth it? Peter has received many accolades on what's been achieved with this car, the most notable of arriving after sending a photograph of the car as in found condition, to Sir Stirling Moss by post politely requesting his signature so this could be displayed with the car. "The photograph came back duly signed by Stirling," Peter enthused, "the accompanying letter said - 'This car never looked this bad when I drove it.' So I was pleased the car was back to its original condition at last."
Source: Classics
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