Polishing the 1926 Citroen chassis - Faine 441

By: Jon Faine

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metal frame metal frame

Instant gratification. Immediate reward. Is there anything better for a quick sugar hit than polishing?

So much of what we do in the shed takes forever to bear fruit. I have been sanding, filing, priming and painting the chassis and suspension components on the 1926 Citroen for what seems like eternity. My knuckles and joints testify to the strain. Unused to hard physical labour, I am struggling to adapt to the hardship of tradie life. But like many others, with my sedentary career having being hit out of the park by a random bat in Wuhan, I have taken to the shed as therapy.

And what a productive quarantine it has been. If I have become enamoured with any single part of the revived restoration process, it is metal polishing. In a flash of the eye and a flick of the wrist, something old, tarnished and tatty gleams like new again. Mirrored metal replaces crud and this proud and puffed up amateur shed dweller can engage in the self delusion of competence and emerge triumphant at the end of the day holding up a trophy.

The chassis of the Citroen B2 Caddy replica is now re-assembled and has been gradually reunited with some of its components. The front axle was redecorated first, hangers and leaf springs restored and bolted on after a short but vigorous struggle. Tricks abound - those French were pretty cunning a hundred years ago. It turns out that there is zero clearance within the chassis rails for the opposing vertical and horizontal bolt heads that retain the spring hangers, something only understood after half of them have been installed. Some are machined to half height, and were shaved in order to fit snug against each other - an obvious clue that I missed until half way through. Thus the entire front hanger assembly, springs  and spring retainers had to be disassembled and re-done as I corrected my beginners errors.

Then it was the turn of the rear axle. The diff only fell off the trolley jack twice before I made up a suitable cradle and got it installed with much grunting and groaning. The rejuvenated Andre Hatford "shock absorbers" look glorious hanging off the back, brass fascia winking at me each time I walk past. They are supposed to be painted black according to the literature, but as I prefer the shiny brass look I am leaving them that way. If any passing Citroen B2 purists are unhappy, I can refer them to the Complaints Department which is down the corridor underneath the toilets. A long way underneath. Now I am looking  to re-install the motor into the chassis. When I found and bought the car from its abandonment in a storage depot ten years ago, the previous owners provided me with receipts for extensive work they had commissioned on the motor. I do not intend to second guess any of it. I have had the 10hp motor running  - ten years ago - and it sounded and felt strong, so I am leaving it undisturbed. A few cosmetic touches will not go astray, but nothing internal. The next step is to address the dressing of the motor. A pulley off the water outlet drives a leather belt which turns an alloy three blade fan. Somewhere along the journey - probably at a swap meet-  I have acquired an identically mounted four blade fan and have decided it looks better. I am pretending it is a period accessory and designed to make a performance improvement that may assist the car exceed its 70kph nominal top speed. I have started to attack the four blades with the polishing wheel on the bench grinder, to what I have myself decided is magnificent effect.

An afternoon with a fine metal file removed the roughest bits of the 100 year old casting and the rest is responding well to the buffer. The different pastes and cotton wheels together with a modicum of effort results in a gleaming finish suitable for shaving. Getting into the crevices will require some dexterity and maybe a longer arbour for the mops on the side of the bench grinder  turned buffer - this is what is called a wreck in progress. Work in progress? Anyone could do that, but a wreck in progress is truly unique.


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