This months theme is all about projects, so I figured I’d practice what I preach and kick off by talking about my own. Although in all honesty, it was whilst reading through Sean’s update on Leroy last month that alarm bells rang in my mind – and not the good kind either. The kind that wakes you at night and make you wonder what you did wrong. Then I remembered. Oh yeah, I buried my Volvo project in a barn…
I have long been guilty of taking on more than I can handle; writing talent cheques above my pay grade and generally chancing my luck. But in more recent years I’ve begun to reel in my habitual over extension of skill. My project cars seemed like as good a place as any to start this streamlining exercise, yet I still sometimes feel like I’ve got a long way to go. For example, it was just over a year ago that I first told you about my 1990 Volvo 245 – my long journey with it – and how much it’s changed in the time we’ve had together.
So you’d think I’d look after it a bit better, wouldn’t you? Although I would say this is actually an attempt on my part to do so. Honestly.
Last year blasted by in a blur of car shows, road trips and err… lots of other car related stuff. As I start to feel guilty about my apparent neglect of the Volvo I console myself with the thought that I was on the road for total of 23 weeks in 2013. That’s quite a long time and some of it was even spent in the Volvo! So that’s good, right?
Car guy excuse: The lower front airdam and splitter are removed in this picture.
This update actually kicks off mid-summer 2013 just before the excellent Players Classic event at Goodwood.
One thing that has always annoyed me about the Volvo was the mismatched colour of the interior that can be seen in this picture from my first article, which still shows its GLT roots and the original blue that it came in.
After the Volvo came back from having its engine swapped at Huxley Motorsport the whole thing had moved up to a new level. Hux had sprayed the entire engine bay and inner arches in a subtle, solid grey colour, or ‘Hux Grey’ as it’s known at his local paint supplier. You can see more of it on his own Volvo build that we featured in December. That gave me the final kick up the arse to sort out the interior and cover it in a similar hue. I specifically went for the grey because it means I can swap the external colour as much as I want and keep it neutral inside – perfect if I go for a wrap or just get bored one night and break out the rattle cans.
Next up was some show prep – something I’ll admit to being not overly familiar with given my propensity to just get in and drive. But it’s a little known fact that I actually like cleaning cars. Too often I don’t see the results from the work I do, so the immediate impact from physically cleaning something is really rather satisfying. Plus it happens so rarely there’s a strong chance the results will radically transform whatever I’m cleaning.
Instant gratification? Yes I am a ten-year-old child and I need pleasing that simply! Thankfully, Kleers hooked each Speedhunters team member up with a care package and it pretty comprehensively covers everything I can think of. Although, I’ve since found out there’s a bunch more stuff to discover yet, and boy did the Volvo need some help…So where did it all go wrong?
Now the summer is in full swing and I’m blasting the Volvo wherever I can – shopping trips, shows and just generally annoying my eardrums whenever I can. Which is what owning a modified car is all about, right?
The trouble is, to enjoy an omelette you have to break some eggs, by which I mean some damage will occur. However, I would say coming back to the Volvo in a supermarket car park one day and finding this, didn’t instantly start me issuing death threats to every other driver around me. It’s one of those things and it amuses me when you see people ranting and raving over minor scratches or dents that they pick up along the way. I’ve done far worse to my own cars, so let’s just get it fixed, eh?
Which is when I realised how hard it’s becoming to find 240 parts. I mean, come on – where did they all go? This makes me realise that in the 13 years I’ve owned the Volvo it’s gone from being a familiar sight on the British roads to becoming an increasingly rare one, which means there are less and less of them in scrapyards now too. My problem was compounded by the fact that I bought aftermarket clear lenses around seven years ago. And could I find any again? Not until I stumbled across one on eBay, and in a stroke of good fortune the correct side for the same price I’d paid for a pair all those years ago. Which quite obviously didn’t stop me for a second. Take my money!
When this piece of hockey stick trim above the front bumper decided to abandon ship at high speed, another hunt ensued which ended on a retro car forum. Although worryingly, I’ve yet to see what my £20 paid for. I should probably chase that up…
So am I babying it? Of course not – that would be a chronic waste. Although I did put it away for the winter and that’s when I took my eye off the ball. Or the Volvo in this case.
Where I live there’s a workshop, but that’s taken up with other projects at the moment. So this is where the Volvo spent the cold and dark months; wrapped up under a car cover with a protective layer of oil sprayed on to anything that looked like it was thinking of rusting. So you see, I did try and protect it.
There was actually only one flaw in my plan – I’d underestimated just how sneaky the farm cats are and how dedicated they are at finding somewhere warm to sleep. Somehow they managed to figure out a way up and under the cover, and then – and this is the one that really amazes me – they also figured out I’d left one window partially open, enabling them to park their stinky, muddy asses on my lovely bucket seats. They might as well have buckled up in the Takata harnesses and gone on a mouse seeking mission, the dirty b’stards.
So this is what greeted me when I uncovered the wagon and re-installed the battery. Nothing a vacuum cleaner didn’t sort out with some well spent elbow grease. But really? Like there’s not another 1000 places for them to sleep! The main thing is, the Volvo was out of the garage and the next stage in its evolution could begin.Let’s not get too carried away now…
There are a couple of reasons why I needed to get the Volvo out, the first of which is to do something about the wheels. I’ve long been a fan of the Compomotive MOs that it wears, but I’ve had them for seven years now and they need a refurb. Plus and probably more crucially, as the Vehicle Art Director working on Need For Speed said, “The fitment makes me cry.” Which is true. They were made for a standard road car I had at the time, and I could really do with more width than the eight inches I have now, plus my offset game is weak. I’ve been looking at a few different styles across an equal amount of manufacturers, so hopefully I can actually make a choice soon. But gah, it’s not an easy one to make. I have and will live with the Volvo for a long time yet, so any decision has to be considered.
Well almost every one… One thing that was a no brainer, was to source a GRP replacement bonnet when the opportunity came up. The original hinges were removed from my standard bonnet and it’s held in place by four pins, which means removing it on your own involves counter balancing your body against it’s weight whilst balancing the leading edge on your thighs. Which although it might sound hilarious, isn’t much fun. Plus weight saving is good!
Because the bonnet was a good price (read: cheap) it needed some work before I could spray or wrap it. So the first part of the prep was to give it a dust coat of satin black aerosol that I had lying around.
I’m no bodywork expert, but the theory as I understand and have practiced it, is to fine sand the surface so that any imperfections will be left in black for me to see clearly.
So along with some wet and dry paper, I used some car shampoo and made with the flatting.
This the result so far. These indents will need filling and sanding again before I’m happy to finish the surface off. I’ll cut and reinforce the holes for the bonnet pins first though, then I’ll be able to remove it from its mounts without popping a vein in the side of my head!
One other issue I’ve got is my oil cooler mount. I had Forge Motorsport install a new intercooler and radiator last year to handle my intended power increases, but I never got around to dealing with this bad boy. So it’s yet another thing on the list that I really need to address. Along with the knackered rear suspension, aging carbon fibre bucket seats that really aren’t doing my back problem any good… The list is long my friends. Long and sh*tty.
Yes, I’m easily distracted, but so you don’t leave this article thinking I’m a complete loss at getting anything done I’m going to make you aware of more reasons why I’m a little bit behind schedule with the Volvo. This is my early Range Rover. I love it and it loves me because I fit new gearboxes and diffs to it, band the standard steel wheels and redo the interior. Can you see why I get distracted?
Last year, some of those weeks on the road I spoke about earlier were spent in this Cortina which I drove 2500 miles back from Finland to the UK, via the mighty Gatebil event at Rudskogen. The fact that the bottom six inches were made from rust and hope didn’t stop me, but it does stop me getting it road legal in the UK. So that needs sorting too. Thankfully Hux from Huxley Motorsport is very competent in old Ford metal as well as Volvo, so it’s in his workshop getting the required welding done.
But the Volvo is out of storage and will be done (some more). As with any project it’s a fine balancing act between actually using the thing and improving it as you do. I’ll say this: as much as I like using it I also like improving it, and after almost a decade and a half of ownership there’s still a long way to go. I just don’t know how far yet… Hopefully not too far. Is that even a place?
#joyofmachine? Yup, got plenty thanks!