Our Cars : Some wheely good news for Craig’s Vitesse…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Shabby wheels were definitely letting the side down...
Shabby wheels were definitely letting the side down…

Sometimes, it’s the minor details that make all the difference…

Since repatriating my Rover Vitesse from Amsterdam last summer, I’ve set about a course of gradual improvement and turned it from a very presentable Vitesse into a really rather nice Vitesse, but like any critical owner, there were areas of the car that many people may not notice, but which I found unsightly.

The first bits to get the attention were the grubby number plates, followed by the leather seats and gearbox gaiter, all of which I treated to a liberal dosing of the wonderful ‘Leather Forever’, which I’ve only ever seen at car shows. Pricey at fifteen quid a tub, but great nonetheless.

With that, several coats of wax and polish and some minor fettling with a touch-up brush, the Vitesse was starting to look great, but was let down by the alloys. As I mentioned in my previous update, the wheels were coated in some kind of substance, as if somebody had tried to repaint them before. Allied to some small kerbing marks and scuffs around the wheelnut sockets, what was previously a minor irritation was starting to stand out like a sore thumb.

No amount of cleaning fluid would get the job done, so the only option was to call in the experts…

Adrian's Alloy Ambulance is equipped to refurb wheels even in the most miserable of conditions...
Adrian’s Alloy Ambulance is equipped to refurb wheels even in the most miserable of conditions…

Enter Adrian Torrens from Alloy Ambulance, based in St Neots, Cambs. Adrian operates a mobile wheel refurbishing service and covers most of Herts, Beds, Bucks and Cambridgeshire.

He’s also an extremely friendly, personable and quick operator, and comes highly recommended, though he was more than a little surprised to find himself working on a 20-year old Rover – the vast majority of his jobs are much newer cars, many on trade forecourts.

While Adrian sorted out the wheels, I used the day of the refurb to try and tidy up the rear bumper, which had been sprayed badly by a previous owner. Thanks to an unexpected confidence boost from the ever-helpful Kate in the Rover 800 Owners Group, who insisted that Charcoal was probably the easiest ARG colour with which to get a decent match, I decided to have a crack at this myself.  The result wasn’t as good as Adrian’s alloys, but wasn’t half bad at all considering my weapon of choice was a Halfords rattlecan…

Back to the wheels, and I never knew what an exact science this would prove to be. I’m not quite sure how I expected alloys to be refurbished, to be honest, but Adrian’s van was more of a mobile lab – the rear end containing a tyre machine for the rubber to come off the rims, and the front half containing a fast-bake oven to make sure the newly refurbished finish stays on…

Adrian sets to work, dismantling Craig's Vitesse
Adrian sets to work, dismantling Craig’s Vitesse

Working two wheels at a time, Adrian stripped off the old surface lacquer, then shot blasted and cleaned up each rim, applying special filler to the areas affected by kerbing and tyre gun marks.

Each wheel is then painted, baked, lacquered and then baked again. I was expecting my wheels to look much better by the time he’d done them, but what I wasn’t expecting was for them to look brand new – and that’s what I’ve ended up with. A truly astounding job, and enough to give the Vitesse an even fresher look – I never realised quite how much the wheels would give it a lift.

Stripped back, primed and ready for paint...
Stripped back, primed and ready for paint…

 

 

...followed by Gas Mark 5 for 25 minutes. Job done!
…followed by Gas Mark 5 for 25 minutes. Job done!

What’s more, the total cost was less than £300. Okay, so there was a day when you could buy a half-decent 800 for that, but those days are gone, and the ones that are left are worthy of refurbishment and preservation… and this one has a really interesting history.

Refurbished wheels really give the Vitesse a lift - it's not mint, but it's getting ever closer...
Refurbished wheels really give the Vitesse a lift – it’s not mint, but it’s getting ever closer…

Finally, a massive thanks (albeit a little belated) to AROnline reader Simon Hubbard for sorting me out with an ‘e’. No, that’s not a Nineties drug reference, but refers to him raiding his stash of bootlid letters to find me the right ‘e’ for my badge.  That’s one less petty annoyance to wind myself up over – thank you, sir.

Time, then, to give the Vitesse a bit of a rest and focus on my other two new projects, one which I bought in September and another in November, but neither of which I’ve found time to write about just yet… My aim is to put that right next week.

Meantime, if you think you can use Adrian’s services, his website is here.

Vitesse wheels 103 (800x600)

 

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

4 Comments

  1. Craig, they really do look brand new! I never new such a thorough, comprehensive alloy wheel refurbishment service was available. As always, some attractive alloys lift the appearance of the whole car.

    You can tell she’s had a few coats of wax too…… and that comes from Mr “my polish must be thicker than my paint” !

  2. Ah, you’re not the only one (or weren’t the only one) with an 800 on scruffy alloys. Mine are a lot worse than that, so should a refurb will really give the car a lift.

    Bodywork, mechanical stuff and leaks needed to be fixed before I move on to such frivolities as alloys, sadly…

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