Nut & Bolt Resto Nuts - Faine 435

By: Jon Faine

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A term of art? Or a secret language

As I wander around the hallowed halls of the squillion dollar concourse, and a few weeks later the dusty rusty aisles of the swap meet, I ponder the real meaning of ‘nut and bolt restoration’.

Has it become a term of art? A secret language? Has it lost its natural meaning and instead become some coded shorthand for scammers and shifty dealers? Do they really mean it? Every nut and every bolt? Every washer? Every scrap of metal? Every clip of trim? Every circlip and every jubilee clamp?

Should we be asking for an inquiry by some consumer organisation?

While I’ve met obsessives in many walks of life, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatrists bible, makes no mention of car nuts. Shrinks have a label for everything, and if they could come up with a new category, they would.

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When I meet a restorer who is scouring the world for new-old-stock washers to go with their E-Type or Corvette restoration, I wonder if it is going too far. A 1960s washer is surely indistinguishable from those you can buy tomorrow at Repco? I’m restoring an old car that has lots of obscure bolts and nuts. The threads are rotten, inconsistent and often ruined. The tap and die set is frequently being called into use. As each component is dismantled, I meticulously assess every part – every obscure bolt, every castellated nut, every tab washer – for its suitability to be part of the finished drama. But I am finding myself overcome with emotion, along with hayfever and fumes. They make for a heady mix. Are my tears from pollen or the realisation that no one has touched this particular item for almost 100 years, and when they did it was Pierre or Francois, working in Quai Javel in the 15th Arrondisement in Paris in the 1920s ?

Phillipe or Marcel on the production line could never, in their wildest imaginings, have anticipated that someone on the opposite side of the globe, would be painstakingly taking apart what they were meticulously putting together.

Some bolts, although worn and corroded must be kept. They are forged with the Citroen logo on their heads, something I didn’t at first realise. But as a century of grease, grime and caked dirt vanished under the wire brush and wheel, the attention to detail and marketing genius of Monsieur Citroen becomes apparent.

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Every bolt was identified as being from his forge. Every part of every car he produced screamed to the owner that it was special, that it was proudly produced in a factory that wanted even its bolts to be different from every other bolt holding together every other car.

So what do I do when I need more ‘Citroen’ logo bolts? They aren’t available at Bursons or the local bolt supplier, who expressed admiration for the detail when asked to match the pitch and thread. Do I scour swap meets for individual bolts? Do I scavenge wrecks and beg club members for their discards? Or do I become pragmatic and cut corners, leaving only the most visible bolts tattooed with their makers bling?

This is the dilemma of the ‘nut and bolt’ restorer. The 1926 Citroen B2 Caddy Sport tribute will never win Pebble Beach, or set a record at auction. It is my folly, my indulgence, and I can do with it whatsoever I want. But I do want the finished project to reflect the history and accurately display the essence of this historic marque and what it offered to a booming car market back a hundred years ago.

The Caddy Sport was the top of the line offering a genuine sporting experience at a budget price, much like the MX5 of its time; it was practical, affordable and remarkably robust. A Citroen was the very first car to circumnavigate Australia – the actual vehicle is in the National Museum in Canberra. The Citroen B2 Kegresse with half track rear drive famously was first to cross the Sahara desert, another marketing coup, attention seeking behaviour that characterised the proprietor as well as his cars. No-one else would ever have dreamt of lighting up the Eiffel Tower with his branding, just to make sure everyone knew how fabulous the cars were.

I remind myself that in car restoration, as in political negotiations, 75 per cent of something is better than 100 per centof nothing. If I can’t find enough logo branded bolts, the show must go on. In a way, I argue, the occasional absence of logo-enhanced bolts will make the surviving logo bolts look all the more impressive.

 

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