We have a fully painted body shell, suspension in pieces but with all new components ready to fit, an engine close to completion and a fully overhauled transmission. We have assembled all new or reconditioned brake components and we have a full inventory of wiring looms, instruments and trim ready to fit. We are now ready to start assembly.
It would be shame if during assembly, we refit components incorrectly, we fail to be punctilious in ensuring everything is precisely aligned and to use new fastenings and seals. Attention to detail is vital, but it is also important to have the space to work. Finally, it would a shame after a painstaking body restoration, to damage and dent the bodywork. So sensible precautions need to be taken and those involved need to be conscious all of the time of the potential damage they can do.
Starting with the bare body shell
- Care of the painted body shell – you may ask, why not finish the painting after we have assembled the car, so it doesn’t matter so much if we inadvertently scratch the body. Well there are several reasons why we paint first.
- Because we want to ensure the best possible protection against corrosion, which will not be achieved, if we apply paint after everything has been assembled.
- Because the standard of finish will otherwise be compromised. There is nothing worse that overspray over new components to spoil the effect and no matter how careful one is in masking, it can never be as good as fitting sparkling new components and fastenings over previously painted structure.
Use of wing protectors, polythene sheets etc to prevent dust contamination and a clean working environment are all key, as is avoidance of damp and high humidity. Finally, having carried out a full alignment with bonnet, doors and boot lid fitted and aligned, we remove them and store them in a safe place until needed later.
- Order of assembly – this is much a matter of commonsense but a few words of guidance may be appropriate. Our preferred order is as follows:
- Sound and heat insulation
- Brake pipes, fittings, reservoirs and servos with all clips, grommets and security fastenings
- Fuel lines and fastenings
- Basic wiring harness fore and aft, grommets and fastenings
- Front and rear suspension, axles, bearings, hubs and brakes (we can now make the shell mobile if needed)
- Steering column and power steering components if fitted.
- Front bulkhead fittings (e.g. fuse-boxes, relays etc) and electric fuel pump
- Pedal box, master cylinders etc and connecting up. Fit handbrake linkages and lever assembly
- Windscreen wipers and washer assemblies (excluding the washer reservoir for the present)
- Heater box and air conditioning evaporator (if fitted)
- Assembly of instrument panel and assembly of instrument panel to front dashboard
- Fitting of headlining
- Installing Dashboard and wiring up. Fit ventilation trunking.
- Fitting lights and indicators and wiring up – continuity checking
- Install fuel tank and connect up.
- Install front and rear bumpers
- Fitting of splash guards (front and rear) and pedal box protector
- Carpeting overall and boot trim, excepting transmission tunnel area and mats
- Fit of boot and door seals
- Complete fitting out of all under bonnet assemblies excepting radiator assemblies and engine
- Fit out doors, complete with locks, door frames, window mechanisms and door glass
- Install engine and gearbox in unit. Install radiators (water and oil) and connect up all services and instrumentation
- Install exhaust system
- Check electrical system, fit battery, power up and function
- Install transmission shaft, fit transmission tunnel and close up.
- Install all remaining body trim complete with in car entertainment systems
- Hang and align doors including window frames
- Trim doors and complete assembly – function locks and window raising and lowering
- Front and rear suspension alignment (as appropriate)
- Start engine and commence car test
- Finally fit bonnet
- Final checking and tuning
- Fit and finish – our objective – It cannot be overemphasised that the most painstaking restoration can be ruined by careless final assembly, not using new fastenings, failure to fit new seals and use of non-original parts where that matters. It is also important in achieving that quality result that components to be refitted are scrupulously clean, painted and where appropriate polished.
The mark of good final assembly is the care taken to ensure that any fastenings securing a component that may need removal in the future and that may be subject to damp, heat and erosion has been copper greased to ease removal in the future, or to be given good final protection.
Finally, it is nice to see aligned screw heads, but it is more important that what they secure has been snugly and carefully fitted.
- It pays to do this carefully and in the correct order – A key indicator of a good restoration is how the brake and clutch hydraulic pipes are laid out. The more care that is taken to ensure a perfect alignment and fit, so the more professional the end product will appear. We at Aston Workshop take pride in the care we take to get these little details right, for they set the overall tone of the restoration.
- Achieving the perfect finish – Another key indicator of the quality of the restoration is the fit and finish is in the selection and use of high grade components, plated nuts, bolts and washers, polished aluminium panels and immaculate fit of all grommets, P-clips etc. When a car has been the subject of a full restoration it is also good to fit a new wiring harness and this too adds to the overall sense of quality.
Brakes, Suspension and Steering
- We always will fit overhauled and new components whenever we undertake a suspension and steering rebuild. The component costs are relatively small compared to the time and hence cost to dismantle and refit.
Much the same considerations apply to the fitment of new brake components. For example we would normally never refit old discs unless they were in essentially unmarked and unworn condition; and we would never refit brake callipers without at least checking the condition of the pistons and refinishing and reassembling the calliper with new seals throughout.
All Aston Martins up to the start of the V8 era were fitted with wire wheels. The key concern with regard to Hubs is the condition of the splines and the principal indicator of wear is when the splines look pitted and have sharp ridges. In such cases, it is the safe option to replace, as the alternative of building up the splines with weld and then machining will be even more expensive than replacement.
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- Safety considerations – There are a number of key components, which if there were to fail, could lead to a serious accident and potential loss of life. Such components include front stub axles and king pins, wish bones, steering arms and swivel joints, wheels, hubs, and brakes. Most of these experience significant mechanical stress. They all require the most careful checking and examining for distortion, cracks and other signs of deterioration. For safety reasons there are a number of must do’s and these include:
- Brake discs, pads etc should always be replaced as matched pairs
- If one side shows signs of damage, always suspect that the other will have been damaged too.
- Never assume it is safe to replace any safety critical item unless it has been dismantled and checked
- Always if dismantled replace with new bushes, nuts, bolts and tab washers.
Finally, a specific point with the DB2/4 and DB Mk3 is a known mechanical weakness of the front and rear hubs and front stub axle. There is also a known problem with regard to the upper and lower rear axle aluminium castings fitted to the trailing arms of the rear suspension, which are known to crack and break up with potentially life threatening consequences. For these reasons, they should be replaced unless there is evidence of recent replacement.
- Negative and positive earth – why it is a good idea to convert to negative earth –The fitment of any modern electronics requires a negative earth. To that end, it makes sense to convert and this can be quite straightforward. The only instruments that need to be modified are the clock and DB5 or DB6 Rev Counter. Otherwise little other modification is needed, excepting to the re-magnetising of a generator or new diode assemblies for an alternator.
- Wiring integrity – if in any doubt renew it. It should be remembered that most car fires and electrical failures start from poor electrical connections, failed insulation and short circuits. Chafing occurs and connections become tenuous. Given the cost of a new wiring loom, it generally makes sense to replace the old. They are readily available and save a great deal of time and trouble during re-assembly.
Other Minor Systems
- Heat and Noise Insulation – We fit the best and most advanced heat and noise insulation available as we find that significantly adds to the sense of well being, comfort and usability of the restored car. The cost is relatively small, and with a stripped down body-shell, it is the ideal time to huck out the old and start again.
- New versus old – Most who choose to undertake a major restoration will choose also to include a full re-trim. But it is also worth considering the merits of retaining the original leather. Like a slightly frayed but comfortable sports jacket, slipping into it seems natural and the car retains more of its character. But it is also worth considering whether the extra expense of a re-trim will increase the value of the car more than cleaning and restoring the original. As always, ultimately it depends on the individual customer, but the evidence is that provided the original leather is in good condition, a car with original leather will still be just as valuable as one that has undergone a full re-trim.
There is nothing particularly difficult apart from a little elbow grease, to restoring old leather, but it is important to use the correct cleaning and feeding materials as well as the right technique. Excellent advice is available from the Leather Conservation Centre (www.leatherconservation.org) which is situated on the Northampton University campus.
Finally the other principal material used in trimming is the carpet. These do wear out; they become frayed and discoloured and often there is no alternative to replacement. Many a good restoration has been badly let down through economising on low quality materials. In the context of a major restoration, carpet represents a relatively minor expense and Astons demand best quality Wilton carpet. Equally do insist on the carpet being properly bound with the right leather.
- Comfort and Safety – Some words on comfort and safety are appropriate as both attributes are to an extent bound up with each other. We do have an opportunity if you are a person of untypical stature to tailor the seating to suit your particular needs. We can alter the shape and padding of the seat to a limited degree; we can raise or lower to suit and we do normally ensure we fit inertia type seat belts when appropriate. Finally if headrests are specified then these too can be readily accommodated.
- Weather proofing and seals – Astons of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s come with relatively rudimentary seals and weather proofing. Modern seals are light years in advance of what was then available. We can to an extent use some more modern seal extrusions and improve upon what has gone before, but the scope is limited. The most visible seals are those around the windscreen and rear window and it is sensible to ensure new and flexible seals are used when these refitted.
- Bespoke fittings – One of the joys of creating a unique product such as a fully restored Aston Martin is the almost endless opportunity for the bespoke fittings, choice of colours etc. In theory, nothing is impossible, but do not expect an instant response to a request if this means sourcing non-standard colours, unusual patterns or exotic materials. What we can do is to tailor the interior and boot space to accommodate customer’s wishes for additional stowage, security containers and hidden “cubby holes”. Central locking is a common demand. We can also readily accommodate a wide variety of security systems, trackers and other security features that customers wish to have. Finally, we can source and provide tailored luggage to complement the restored car and make it truly special. In principal nothing is impossible but occasionally we need a little time to devise and source the materials required.