I’m having trouble focusing on work. There’s been little interest in maintaining the homestead – you know, cutting the grass, putting out the trash, washing the dishes, paying attention to the dog. That sort of thing. More troublesome is that I am probably not spending enough time with Christie. And when I do – oh, how I hate to admit this – oftentimes my head is not in the same location as the rest of me.
I find my thoughts constantly drifting back to my little rented garage, where the Stag is up on ramps, where almost all are the parts needed to build the car are laid out on neatly nearby shelves, and where I want to be right now. That parts stack is growing smaller by the day as the Stag becomes whole again. I sneak off to the shop a few times a week after work for an hour or so, and usually put in a full day on Saturday.
Progress is good. Problems have been few. And so far, the car has been a joy to build. But it goes in spurts. Some days I make terrific progress and everything goes well. Then something like the license plate lights wiring loom comes along and what seemed like a simple 5 minute job lasts two hours. The loom enters the channels of the underside of the boot lid through a narrow hole down by the hinge. It is not possible to feed the loom through so that the wire connectors go round every curve and corner and come out near the aperture for the lights.
I finally discovered how to install the loom. I fed a stiff 20 gauge wire through the holes and then tied one end of the wire to the loom and then pulled it through.
Sometimes I start on one task only to quit because some small part is missing or in poor condition. Packages of parts have been arriving weekly from Rimmer Brothers. (‘it’s that American nut again,’ I bet the Rimmer’s crew says each Monday when they report to work and look at the overnight orders). If all goes according to plan, the Stag could be running by late August. But there is still a long, long way to go.
At this writing, all the exterior trim is now fitted. All the lights are in. And the Stag‘s face is back in place. The headlights, buckets and mounting hardware are all new. The grille has been powdercoated and a new Stag grille badge has been installed. It all looks great.
Instead of rechroming the Stag’s dented and mildly rusty original bumpers, I bought a set of the new reproduction stainless steel bumpers from an eBay vendor. They are made to order. A month later, the bumpers appeared on my doorstep. I was stunned to see they came from Vietnam — perhaps the first time Triumph parts have come from there. But the quality is astonishingly good. The metal is the proper thickness. And more importantly, the appearance and fit is perfect. The bumper kit comes complete with all mounting hardware, license plate holder, new bumper guards and all nuts and bolts are included. For $1,100, it’s a good deal.
Rimmers supplied all the new exterior stainless steel ‘horseshoe’ trim, accent strips for front fascia panel and boot lid, clips and new stainless steel sill trims. Two of the strips, one the boot and one on the grille, needed to a quick visit to the bench grinder for shortening. But otherwise, all fits well and looks great. I feel as if I am building a new car.
The body hardware has been replaced using new parts from Rimmers. All the plastic clips, fasteners and screw holders are in place. And what a joyous sensation it is to install new body hardware and fasteners onto a freshly painted car. How great it must have been to build Stags new. It is important to replace 40 year-old soft parts that are now brittle with age. My goal is for the Stag to be a very tight and rattle-free car.
When you build a Stag from scratch, you see what a well-made car it is. Triumph really did a nice job of tying things down and tidying things up. Now, with nearly all the low-hanging fruit now picked off, I have to start thinking about some of the tougher, and more physically demanding tasks ahead and develop a plan to make it all go smoothly.
In my younger and more foolish days when I was invincible, I would do everything myself, never asking for help. This time, I will have extra hands when needed. Being impatient and failing to acknowledge you are not as physically capable in your 50s as you were in your 20s, could mean damage to the Stag’s new paint job. Or sloppy work. I can’t let that happen.
In the coming weeks, I will finish out the engine bay by installing all the hydraulics and windscreen wiper motor. Then the interior will get the dash reinstalled along with the carpet and the seats.
There is, of course, new carpet and under padding. Triumph used top quality seat upholstery and so my seats just needed were new foams to be good as new. That was done last winter. The convertible top frame and tonneau cover need to be put back in the car, and I will have help for that.
The last major task is the Stag’s powertrain. My plan is reduce the chance of damaging the paint by installing the engine and gearbox as an assembly from below. That means the entire front suspension will have to come out. It’s a lot of work, and sore muscles are surely to come.
But this is Stag is end of the line for me. After owning more than 50 British cars, I have to settle on two that I want to keep and move them down my life’s list of priorities. By the end of summer, the course of my life will turn in a new direction. I am getting married for the first time on 29 June. I plan to keep the Stag and my TR8 and jettison all other cars and spares and focus on being a good husband and hopefully — someday soon — a good father.
So, after the Stag is finished, there will be no more. Because I want it to reflect everything I have learned about restoring cars, it has to as close to perfect as I can make it.