Hudson Motor Company are one of only a few garages in Jersey that undertake veteran/vintage/classic car restoration.
Jensen 541R Project
Inspired by competing in a Classic Car Rally (1999 11th Marathon Classic Car Rally) in a 1964 Aston Martin DB5. I considered the idea of purchasing a pre 1960 classic that was quite powerful, had 4 wheel disc brakes and was slightly unique, ie not a Jaguar. The answer seemed to be a Jensen although having borrowed one for a week in Jersey, I was not so sure as the steering was loose to say the least. In fairness this vehicle was a 1956 541 De-Luxe Model using a steering box and consequent idler arms etc.
Further investigation led me to a hay barn in South Gloucester where a real sad 541R lay with its DS7 engine, making it extremely rare as only 43 were produced by Jensen with its up-rated engine of 150 BHP. In a nearby garage sat an original 27,000 mile 541R, again with a DS7 engine, after a brief run in this exciting motor car I was convinced that my choice was sound.
Ultimately both Jensens arrived in Jersey (28th October 1999), the basket case trailered whilst the other followed behind, although not close enough to see a wheel fly off the trailer whilst travelling down the M4. After a harrowing 60 miles we arrived in Portsmouth to catch the ferry.
So having arrived home the first task was to remove the interior and body trim, hopefully making the car look a bit respectable for the wife’s first look. Having survived that moment, the next task was to dismantle the dashboard and attempt to save the chrome on the gauges.
Clearly the wiring had seen better days and I had some concern as to the cost and effort required to replace the loom.
The answer was Autosparks who had a loom on the shelf for a very good price, I still find it hard to believe that this Company had a loom for a 1959 DS7 engined 541R Jensen, remember only 43 of these made. I only hope that no mistakes have been made and that this loom is actually for the more popular DS5 engine.
Time will tell!
Another concern was the 5″ diameter chassis tubes that run under the sills. These chassis tubes are completely rotten and will ultimately need replacing. The problem being where do you find 5″ tubes in Jersey. On phoning the local steel merchants, no one had even heard of 5″ diameter tube. A company in the UK could supply but the cost was prohibitive and that was without freight.
I am led to believe the original specification was 14 gauge rolled steel for the tubes, a thought crossed my mind that our local exhaust centre may be able to help. Having enquired to the maximum diameter size they could source, I was amazed to find they could supply 5″ tube, but was instantly dismissive when they told me the thickness was only 2.00mm. More enquiry’s to steel merchants drew a blank.
Another thought occurred, what was the metric equivalent to 14 gauge steel. I was surprised to learn that the metric equivalent was 2.01mm. Four lengths of exhaust tube have since been ordered, the other difference being instead of rolled, this tube is electric seam welded.
Obviously the body needs to be attended to first, so the boot lid was removed as was the front flap. Using great care not to damage the fibreglass the paint was removed using a scraper and hot air gun.
Once down to the original colour a DA sander was used to finish off. Unfortunately the fibreglass was covered in stress cracks on both panels, after grinding out the cracks new fibreglass was applied, finishing off with polyester filler.
In the meantime, whilst I knew a great deal of work was required to renovate this vehicle, I had no idea what condition the engine was in, I had determined that the engine turned over and was not seized, but had not heard it run.
I cleaned the carbs with aerosol carb cleaner, quickly cleaned the points with emery cloth, then hooked up a battery and fuel supply.
With bated breath I pressed the starter solenoid and incredibly the engine started instantly, giving 50lbs oil pressure and no knocking noises. The driveway could not be seen for blue smoke for approximately 20 minutes, after which time the exhaust cleared. Unfortunately after this period, oil started to seap from the head gasket at the rear of the block. More work!
Back to the body :
The next item was the bonnet, some collision damage was obvious but there was so much paint on this car it was difficult to ascertain the true condition of the fibreglass. Again with trusty hot air gun much paint was incinerated until it was DA time. As each area became more and more exposed my heart began to sink. A new forward wing had been grafted on at some time, held with pop rivets and a steel plate, which is not the best of methods. Having removed all the paint I realised that this bonnet has more cracks in it than the Coliseum.
The good news (sic) is the roof of the vehicle is practically as bad as the bonnet … more work
In view of the recent weather, I felt it prudent to offer some protection to the vehicle while it awaits my attention. I am quite positive that the wet weather of late (Autumn 2000 / Winter 2001), is going to create some new records. Living under a tarpaulin after already suffering 40 years of English climate does not bode well for the Jensen.
I therefore bought an exterior CARCOON (quite easy as Hudson Motor Company are the CARCOON agents for the Channel Islands), and whilst risking the chance of the House being renamed Roswell, I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the product.
So, two items of body finished, yes the front bonnet flap and the boot lid are now in colour (basic silver), the boot lid proved to be quite difficult because of the reverse curves and rounded corners. Core mat was added to the inside for added strength, the down side being the extra weight this adds to the boot lid.
The aluminium doors have had their skins removed and new lower steel panels (3 pieces) fitted to the door frames. After wire brushing, the frames will be hand painted in red lead and the skins panel beated into original shape. Once refitted to the frames, the skins will be filled and fettled ready for primer and base coat (basic silver).
Also at this time, whilst carrying out work on another 541R that had “aged” door trims, I commissioned new trims in fibreglass. Firstly, this entailed making a plug from the plywood and aluminium of the original and then making a fibreglass mould.This eliminates quite a lot of work when re-trimming the door panel and removes the risk of water ingressing the plywood.
Here in Jersey 2.5mm ply is hard to find and 4mm ply is actually too thick, so now Jensen 541 owners can buy these trims through ourselves. The trims were made over size so that 541S owners can take advantage, as the doors are slightly longer on the S.
Work is advancing slowly, little progress has been made, although the doors have been finished and are silver in colour. I have found some inspiration and things are moving on, it is now September 2002. The rear end had been damaged, buckling the aluminium section of the boot floor and literally breaking off a section of fibreglass. This created distortion in the back end of the body.
After removing the fuel tank and having cut away the aluminium floor, the bolts holding the rear section of the body to the chassis were removed using an angle grinder, a piece of 2x1 wood was then screwed across the gap and the body re-aligned
The broken section was then re-fibreglassed into position, the boot lid being used to make sure all was correct and that the gap lines were in specification.
I have also removed the front wings. inner wings and sills, some fibreglass work has been carried out to the rear section of the body, mainly in the seriously damaged areas. Now the rear boot floor has been removed, more of the chassis can be seen (what chassis!)
The aim is to carry out glassfibre repairs to all the serious cracks and impact damage areas of the rear section of the body, the stress cracks will then be dealt with. The thought is that due to the amount of stress cracks it will be safer and wiser to grind back the complete section and relay fibreglass mat over the whole area. It has been noted that there must have been a definite difference in the original moulds to the rear wings as the right “hump” is more pronounced than the left hand “hump”, this has been seen on more than one car.
If this had been an early car, say 1954, bearing in mind fibreglass was a fairly new technology, you would expect some problems, but by 1959 you would have thought these types of issues would have been sorted out. I suppose it exemplifies the British Motor Industry of the time and why it has contracted to the position it finds itself now in.
The rear body section has now had the serious cracks repaired and the rest of the bolts holding the section to the chassis have been ground off. By using a hacksaw and cutting the join between the rear section and the roof, the rear body section has been removed off the car.
It maybe worth mentioning at this moment in time, that Mr Chris Marshman of Fibreglass Projects, Jersey, has been recently acting as advisor on the body repairs and will be doing the final finish on all of these repairs. Now that the body is well on its way I will be applying my mind to the chassis. When the rear section was removed, it revealed the true extent of the corrosion to the chassis. In view of this corrossion I think an advisor will also be required on the chassis. The problem being that this vehicle has had one bodged repair after another and that very little is left of the original, especially in the area of the rear wheel arches. The next few pictures will give some idea what is in store and also confirm that I must be stark raving mad.
Armed with an air chisel, hacksaw and the usual blood, sweat and tears, I trussed the A post and B post and removed the n/s chassis sill plate. This consisted of 2 plates where the original had corroded and rather than doa proper job, a new plate was simply welded on top. Further cutting exposed the welds holding the main tube. After lots of pictures for reference points, the tube was cut away. A new forward return tube was cut and mitered ready to meet the new side tube.