The Priory - Restoration

The Priory arrival 

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After crossing Europe in our new car we arrive in Oxforshire to meet with Carl Ford  and begin the rejuvenation of B62HK.

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Soon after acquiring the car we decided to have it 'looked over' and to begin the process of 're-commisioning' all the mechanical systems that would be critical to surviving the event. There are several well known specialty firms in England and the US  that provide that kind of service. We decided to follow up on a small firm that was introduced to us by Richard Biddulph, who had earlier helped us in the search for a suitable car. We toured "The Priory" briefly  and were bedazzled by the assortment of vintage R&R and Bentleys. It seemed to have just the kind of expertise we would need. We met with Carl Ford who presides over the works and quickly realized he was our man. Lee and I toured the works and were delighted at the sight of so many fine and well preserve vintage cars. In the early winter of 2012 the disassembly  and inspection began. we focused our attentions on the suspension as this would take the worst the desert and Siberia had to offer and had to be up to the job.

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As Lee and I walked through the assortment of projects on the go we imagined our own Bentley joining the ranks of the 'disassembled'. We had hardly had the car for a week. Not enough time to come to know or feel a connection to this lovely machine. Probably best to give it up to Carl now and let him and his team work their magic. We would then get to know and enjoy the rejuvenated car as it should be experienced; fully functioning, reliable and strong.   

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I spent some considerable amount of time in discussion with carl working out a plan of work. We had to be sure that the mechanical systems critical for survival through the barren dirt tracks of Mongolia and the Gobi desert outback would be reworked and repaired and upgraded were possible. This would mean a complete stripdown of the front and rear suspension. Retempering of the front and rear springs as well as rebulding the old lever shocks. We decided early on that we would have to find a way to improve the criusing speed without overworking the engine. We decided on a change to the final drive ratio by mounting a later style differential gear that would allow u cruising at higher speeds but with lower rpms. We had toyed with the idea of an overdrive unit but I had too many uncomfortable memories of  tempermental British overdrives in previous English cars. Was not going there again! 

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Lee surveying stripped down B62HK on one of our trips back to review progress

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Forelorn looking B62HK with both axles removed and most of the top and front of the engine removed. 

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As the dissasembly process began and Carl had an opportunity to assess the various components we discovered that the car appear to have been used lightly during it 77 years. Some items had to be rebuilt completely, such as the shocks, brakes and new axle shafts and drive shafts installed. However, most tof the ancillary such as generator, started, water pump etc simply needed rebuilding with fresh bearings and assorted bits to bring back to good as new. The exhaust was ancient and would wait until we shipped the car back to Vancouver to have a custom unit built to suit the rigors of our rally.

We had agreed to prepare the car in time for a thorough testing on the worst roads we could find. This meant Scotland ! And as far north on the most remote roads we could find. 

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We found time in a busy schedule to take the car in June of '12 and flog it up to Scotland and thrash it for 10 days on whatever roads we could find that could provide a tough challenge. Fortunately northern Scotland has plenty to offer in this regard and we set about touring through the Scottish backcountry. The objective was to drive hard and see what big items woudl drop off the car. It helped that there were all manner of excellent pubs, inns and hotels all prepared to lubricate the weary traveller with fine Scotch and fortifiy with hearty Scotish food (Haggis !!).

After 1,500 miles we returned to the pastural countrysides of Oxfordshire and met with Carl to survey the damage. We came back minus a muffler (lost in Edinburgh) which had us to roaring along the back country roads. But otherwise nothing else came adrift !!

We returned home feeling very confident in how durable the car was. There were plenty of small details to sort out yet but mechanically the car was sound. This set the stage for returning the car to Vancouver for final preparation by our race car builder, Andy Pearson. Following this, it is on to Peking…..!! 

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Yes, we filled several metal cabinets with car parts waiting to be 'fettled' and re-assembled

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front of the engine timing gears and drives for ancillaries 

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Front suspension and axle removed as a unit 

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twin SU carburettors rebuilt, a bit teensie-weensie given the size  of the engine.

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Old-fangled period shock absorbers took some effort to rebuild

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humongous starter... should be able to drive half way to Paris just on the starter !!

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© Anthony Strelzow 2013