The dreaded 90-10 Rule - Mick's Workshop Tips 421

By: Mick McCrudden

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Why is it always the little things that get you?

This is a bit of a heart-breaker: to those of you have decided to restore your car at home, I wish you all the best and make sure you’ve got plenty of drive, because it will test your patience. The only question is, how much?

It’s not the big jobs involved in restoring a car that are the hard part, for some reason it always seems to be the last 10 per cent. This is a good time to have a workshop buddy on hand, someone to prevent you throwing the whole thing over the back fence.

I happen to be doing a couple of Valiants and an old Holden at the moment, and all three of them are at a point where they’re testing you with all the last-minute fiddly things that seem to go wrong, and the owners are getting anxious to get their toys back.


Take the R-series we’re finishing up. It had a very solid body and the old slant six engine has been straight-forward to do up. Now here’s the first bit of advice: when you order the parts, even though you may be months away from actually using them, just do a dummy-fit to see if they’re actually going to work. (Believe me, I learned this the hard way!) If there’s an issue, you can get straight on to it, rather than trying to sort out the mess and get replacements weeks or months later.

There have been a couple examples on the old Val. For a start we had a set of custom wheels made, and they’re great. The fronts went straight on but the rears fouled the balance weights on the rear drums. In the end, we machined and reworked the weights and rebalanced the drums – a lot of fiddle.

Then there was what should be the most simple component on the planet – a set of ignition leads. Often I’d just make up a set, but these have some special caps on them to keep the water out and need to look right. Believe it or not, I bought two sets from different well-known makers and they were both too short by about 20mm. I’m not about to try relocating the distributor, because that creates a whole new set of problems, so we’ve gone back to one of the manufacturers and asked them to make a longer set.


The funny thing is no one has tried to dud us on this – they were simply problems that nobody knew about in advance.

Or let’s talk about the steering gear we ordered. Among the components was a Pitman arm, which turned out to be the wrong one. We tracked down a correct part in the USA, but that’s potentially yet another delay for the project. It’s a lot easier if you check this stuff when you get it.

Here’s my second bit of advice: when you pull something apart, tag and bag everything and keep it all in one place. Otherwise stuff goes missing. And if you’re sending something off for specialist work, such as a body shell to a painter or panel beater, remove all the extraneous bits.


Another Valiant we were working on came back from the body shop missing its dumb irons (aka bumper mounts) and, when we asked the shop where they were, we ended up in a well-known river in Egypt – in de Nile.

All of this is pretty typical of the last stage in projects, when all the little things seem to conspire against you. So here’s my last bit of advice for the day: 90 per cent of the work is in the last 10 per cent of the project and, when it all gets too much, quietly close the shed and take your partner out for a very long lunch. Good luck…

Note: Mick runs Glenlyon Motors in Brunswick, Vic. Tel (03) 9380 5082.

- See more of Mick's workshop tips here



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