Here it is, AROnline’s latest Car of the Month. But hang on, we hear you say, all there is to see in the picture below is an empty patch in a slightly overgrown garden…
…if you want to find out why, you’ll need to read on.
Words: Alexander Boucke Photography: Chris Chantrell
Back in November 2013, AROnline reader, Chris Chantrell, heard that a fellow BMC 1800 owner who needed to part with his car, due to health problems. After resting it in his garden for years, a new loving home was needed for the Austin – before the car deteriorated too much.
Hence, one morning, after some careful un-seizing of brakes using big tools, a Damask Red Austin 1800 MkII rolled onto tarmac for the first time since its tax had ran out in 2004. And that’s where the story really starts – with the above picture.
As found and rescued
After rescuing the car, and upon its first inspection Chris noticed, there was a bit of work to do. He said, ‘An initial poke around highlights some bodywork problems. I needed to get her up in the air for a proper look at the underside, but the floors looked good from the inside, so fingers crossed.’
What did he know…
Over the next couple of days Chris rooted into the documentation that came with the car, such as the original ‘Passport to Service’. Later on, he started poking some funny blisters at the car and found the odd nasty bit. Still, he was in good spirits and fired up the welding machine.
By December, Chris had enrolled into a welding class at the local college and could report greatly improved welding skills. The car? Well, from then on, it gradually became an increasingly good example of where these cars can (but often do not really) rust. Before the dawn of 2014, Chris’ health caused him some trouble.
However, in the aftermath of his trouble, his recovery dictated a slower pace for the restoration – or was it the car that told him to recover more quickly? While spring 2014 blossomed, Chris was back in full swing building his own version of Trigger’s broom from this 1800’s body. In May Chris acknowledged, that this particular Landcrab was possibly not in the best condition. He said, ‘I have to say that this isn’t car restoration – it’s open-cast rust mining.’
Open-cast rust mining
Weeks of finding various rust spots followed – usually turning into full-sized holes. That was followed by larger work, when the engine came out for cosmetic work and then went back in again, and the brakes were rebuilt. Finally, in March 2015, the Austin, by now called ‘Red Dog’, moved out of the garage under its own power.
A first attempt at the MoT failed on one side of the rear brakes but, apart from, that everything went well. After resting in a damp corner for so many years, nobody would expect that from then on everything would go smoothly – and nor did Chris. A burned-out alternator, a broken wiper switch, some Hydrolastic failures later and the Austin seems to have finally morphed into being the rugged and dependable transport the Landcrab is known for.
At the MoT station, first try
After nearly two years of hard and often tedious work, the ‘Red Dog’ started to pay Chris back with some enjoyment, as he started driving it. It did, of course, throw the occasional spanner in the works. As Chris said, ‘I must admit that I am rather proud of the car, as there was a period of time when I really didn’t think I could do it, so it represents something rather important to me. She will be painted over the autumn. I will keep her Damask, as it is a lovely colour.’
After a first bath – it is really starting to look like a good and solid car again
Oh, and if after reading this, you want to know more about the ins and outs of owning a Landcrab, you want to see that the classic car hobby needs dedication more than deep pockets or simply need to find some motivation for your own project, head over to The Landcrabs forum and settle down for some reading.