Building your own bodywork: Citroen Boat Tail part 2 - Faine 401

By: Jon Faine

Presented by

citroen boat tail 1 citroen boat tail 1

Jon's back on the job but will his rediscovered zeal last?

Therapy time. I know I am not the only one. Many of you reading this will have been here too. But I am about to make a confession.

I have not touched the main project in my shed for months. There, I said it. I feel so much better now. Thank you all for sharing.

Citroen boat tail build part one

A generation ago, there were priests for this sort of ritual. Maybe I should light some candles in the shed, and burn incense under the lathe. Exorcise evil spirits and smoke out ghosts. Burn gum leaves and have a smoking ceremony. That ought do it.

Or maybe it was my failure to do any of those things that triggered the crisis in the first place. But either way, I have been too easily distracted.

First, there was the shed extension. A worthy cause. Months building, painting, shelving, sorting, moving. Then there was the extra old car purchase, getting it squeezed in and bedded down and the many many accompanying boxes sorted, stacked and stored away.

Citroen -boat -tail -2

Then there was the misbehaviour of one of the – supposedly running – other old cars. That was more than a distraction... it became a running joke.

Then there was the grandchild being born. Then there was Christmas. Then work got busy. Then I realised I was too easily distracted. So a few weeks ago I stared long and hard into the mirror on a Saturday morning, gritted my cracked and yellowing teeth and decided the oldest car in the fleet needed some tlc.

First up, I removed the colonising crap from the chassis frame and emerging bodywork, vacuumed the cockroaches and compost that had gathered underfoot and got back into it. The adrenalin kicked in, and it was as if I had never missed a beat.

It has been almost twelve months since I last struck a blow. Shameful, I know. Apart from dust, the 1926 Citroen B2 chassis has several times been bumped and tripped over so it is no longer level and square. So for the umpteenth time, it needed aligning. Out come the spirit levels, the laser and the little bits of wood to serve as shims and spacers.

Then I had to try to remember where I was up to. I am building a boat tail body of a model called the ‘Caddy’; it was never offered into the Australian market. Back in the day – before we had a local car industry to protect – almost all cars imported to Australia were shipped as a running chassis, and local coach builders made whatever style of finished body was ordered. So I fancy that if someone in 1926 had ordered a boat-tail sportster body in right-hand drive for Australia then they could have had one.

In France only about 300 of this ‘go slightly faster’ model were made, and they had a quaintly hotted up engine and improved suspension as well. So instead of the startling 10hp we had – wait for it – 12hp in hand. Add optional rear friction dampers and revolutionary features like a speedo and you have the B2 Caddy Citroen.

Citroen -boat -tail -3

Given the unavailability of anything to measure as a template, I have to make up the dimensions. Photos exist, but no plans. I am using MDF and simple wood working tools to gradually experiment with the shape, the curves and the swage lines to get the basic dimensions in proportion.

The tutorials on YouTube for boat building are fantastic, offering inspiration and instruction in similar proportions. The impression given is always that everything is incredibly obvious and easy. In real life, nothing could be further from the truth.

What is the curve of this panel? What is the taper on the duck tail ? Where does the swage line cut in? Where do the compound curves intersect?

Gradually, it is taking shape. I have invested in a fantastic device that allows a curve to be copied accurately from one pice of wood to the next. It is a profile gauge, but super-sized. I was familiar with the hand held little gadgets about the size of a small ruler with little bristles that copy an intricate pattern, but this is totally different in its ambition.

Coach builders and panel beaters must be very clever people. And, sad it is to have to accept, I am not.

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