Welcome to this blog which will detail the restoration of my 1961 Reliant Regal, Reg. Starting as a complete novice I hope to be able to carry out a total restoration of the car from 2011 onwards to coincide with its 50th birthday. For many a Reliant Regal may seem like a strange choice of car to restore, but for me there was only ever going to be Reg. I inherited Reg from a sadly departed friend and vowed to get it back into full working order as much as a tribute to him as anything else. Almost seven years have passed since that vow in which time I have gone through university, job hunting and house purchasing and renovation. I now finally find myself in the right position to make a start and will be sharing that journey on this blog for my own personal record and also for everyone else to enjoy. I hope you will follow along.

Friday, 8 April 2011

He's Here!

If you have stumbled across this blog then you have probably noticed that the last entry is dated way back in 2006. Those words have been transported around the web ever since as my various websites have come and gone, but I have always kept them on-line in one form or another as a reminder of what I have been working towards. That goal has simply been to get Reg, my 1961 Reliant Regal, fully restored and road legal. I can still clearly remember taking a few trips in the car way back in what was probably the very late 90's and the smiles that he brought to the faces of all those that saw him. I want that sense of fun back and I hope that you will follow me along on this adventure. And it will be an adventure as I currently have no tools, no skills and virtually no knowledge of how to restore a car!

So what has been happening for the last five years since that update? Quite simply, life. Reg has been living on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales ever since he came into my possession through the sad death of Len, a very close family friend and the inspiration for everything that is to follow. At that time I was studying at university in Aberystwyth on the first year of a five year course. Student commitments and limited resources meant that I got very few opportunities to work on the car, the results of which can be seen in the preceding entries. Having graduated (first class of course), the race was on to find full time employment which led to me living in Swansea at a small rented house. I briefly toyed with the idea of moving Reg closer but there was simply nowhere suitable to move him to. Time simply flew by  until about eighteen months ago when my girlfriend and I signed the papers and handed over the ridiculous deposit on our very first home. House hunting had been difficult as we had a pretty specific list of requirements, one of which obviously included a sizeable garage from which I could restore Reg. Amazingly we found exactly what we were looking for in a village on the outskirts of Swansea. My original estimates were for a couple of months of work before the house was properly sorted, but this quickly turned into well over a year of constant renovation and decorating.

That brings us pretty much up to the beginning of 2011 when I was finally able to turn my attention to the garage. We had accumulated a huge amount of junk in there which had to be cleared out, revealing numerous jobs that needed to be done in the process. The biggest of these was to put in place a new ceiling to stop the constant flow of debris that was falling from the exposed roofing felt. This turned out to be a lengthier process than I had expected and ended up stretching on right into March. Then the story got very random.

On the 19th March we made an enquiry to a local business regarding the hire of a trailer with an eye on finally moving Reg to the house around the Easter bank holiday. We soon hit the stops as it turned out that my car wasn't big enough to tow the weight of trailer that we would require, and also that my driving license didn't cover me to tow the trailer even if I'd had a suitable car. We were however given the number of someone called Bob who apparently had a business transporting cars around the country. We gave Bob a ring only to be told that the one vehicle he had that was capable of moving a three wheeled car was up on eBay and about to be sold in the next half an hour. Nightmare. He then threw us a rather unexpected lifeline by offering to set off there and then, aiming to get the car back to us later that day. We had to double check that he knew exactly where Reg was as it is a lengthy and often difficult journey but he was adamant he could do it, and at a very good price. After checking that someone would be available at the other end Bob was off.

At quarter to nine in the evening we received a call to let us know that he had made it to North Wales successfully. An hour later and he was on his way back. This was going to be a long night. It wasn't until three o'clock on Sunday morning that Bob finally drove into view and began the unloading process. It seemed almost alien to see Reg sat there on the back of the truck and away from his home of the last fifteen years. Bob looked absolutely ruined from his ordeal but still managed to be friendly even after I told him that Reg was almost worthless financially speaking. A minor miscommunication led to Reg's front wheel almost dropping through a gap on the ramps but disaster was averted and a few minutes later he was safely in the garage. After seven years of dreaming I still couldn't believe that he was finally there.

24038 - My 1961 Reliant Regal
24039 - My 1961 Reliant Regal
Freshly washed and hiding the true state of the paintwork
I'd love to give a shout out to Bob and his excellent service but I literally know nothing about him apart from the fact that he is called Bob!

Moving forwards I am not entirely sure of the plan so I am just going to get stuck in. The first few tasks involve sorting out shelving in the garage, unloading all of the spare parts currently crammed into Reg and giving his insides a good clean to remove the mould that has grown while he has been in storage. I can't wait.

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Wheels off. Leaks Located.

During February I managed a weekend away to try and discover where the brake system on Reg was leaking fluids from. After working on the master cylinder I was fairly sure that there were no leaks coming from there, so that left the rest of the system to investigate. First job on the cards was to get Reg jacked up to allow easier access to the pipe work underneath and to enable us to remove the wheels to get a look at the brake cylinder inside each wheel. This was not such a major job as in the past. I think we are finally getting the hang of it.

Once up and securely on concrete blocks (we aren't planning on putting him back down for a while), we attempted to get the wheels off. Unfortunately the nuts were stuck solid. Not that surprising really considering the length of time since they were probably last turned. Luckily we had some releasing oil handy so applied this and the rear two wheel were quickly off. The front wheel proved a bit tricky due to its location in the center of the car. To remove it we had to use a length of iron pipe on the wrench in order to get enough leverage to turn the nuts.

Once the wheels were off the brake drums could be clearly seen. The top cover is easily removed by removing two bolts. The first rear wheel tackled came apart easily. Inside all was clean and free of corrosion, suggesting that no leak had been occurring from there. The opposite side proved more problematic. As we attempted to remove the drum cover, oil began to ooze from the base. When the cover finally came free all became clear. The inside of the drum was coated with oil. It looks as though the brake cylinder inside had sprung a leak at some time but had been patched up. Over time this patch has failed leading to the brake fluid leaking out. The result is that a new cylinder is needed as are a set of brake pads. The ones currently installed are to coated in oil to save.

The front brake drum also proved clear though whilst removing it another problem came to light. The bridge pipe appeared to have been snapped at some point, probably during one of its many moves across fields. Here for the first time since starting work on the car we actually found some brake fluid in a bend in the pipe. Unfortunately this ended up in my eye. At least another definitive leak source had been identified as the rest of the pipe work on the car was in perfect condition.

reliant 5.2 reliant 5.1

The next task is to get several new parts and get back to Reg to fit them. This is likely to happen at the start of the summer holidays as at present I have too much work on to fit another visit in. The shopping list currently stands as:

* 22" brake pipe from master cylinder
* 12" bridge pipe for front wheel
* 2 sets of rear brake pads
* 1 rear wheel cylinder

Sunday, 1 January 2006

Master Brake Cylinder Disassembly

Over the Christmas holiday I decided that it was finally time to have a look at the master brake cylinder off Reg seeing as it has been rolling about the boot of the Focus since my last visit. For those of you that have been following the problem was that the lid had sealed itself on, necessitating its removal as testing was impossible with it in situ. I had been doing a bit of research on the internet and have found several places that offer new or reconditioned brake parts for classic cars including Reg's master cylinder. I would like to leave this as a last resort though, as I'd feel much happier actually reusing as many of the old parts as is realistically possible. To this end I liberally soaked the lid in releasing fluid and left it to work its way into the joint for a couple of hours. Needless to say with a bit of force it came straight off. If only I had tried that whilst it had been on the car.....

On closer inspection the seal within the lid was in perfect condition, looking like it had been replaced fairly recently. Based on this and the lack of any evidence of leaks anywhere else on the cylinder I am assuming that the seals inside are in a similar condition. This all points to either the slave cylinder or one of the rear cylinders leaking fluid. I should be going back in a month or so to take the wheels off and have a good check. As for the inside of the cylinder, these all look clean and free from debris.

reliant 4.1 reliant 4.2

The next problem was that the bolt through which the brake pipe exits the cylinder had the remains of the pipe well and truly stuck inside it. This is a legacy of our bodged attempt at removal. Well what I thought was a bodged attempt but it turns out that this is a common occurrence on old cars so we hadn't actually broken anything that wasn't going to get broken anyway. Nevertheless the pipe needed to be removed as I can't imagine it being an easy job to find a replacement bolt. I left it to soak for a couple of days in the releasing fluid and with the help of a hammer managed to ease the pipe out (a job made harder by the fact that the pipes dimensions had become distorted due to previous removal attempts).

The next step is to take the cylinder back to Reg (it's currently in my bedroom), and measure up for a new length of brake pipe, as well as the aforementioned checks that need to be done. I have also found a place where I can get my hands on a flairing tool to flair the end of the pipe so fitting shouldn't be a problem. The Easter target for a working brake system is still looking achievable.

Monday, 1 August 2005

First Tentative Steps

It had been almost a year since my last visit to Reg, and I was eager to get in there and start restoring. I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as that but I am always up for a challenge. Fortunately for me, in the preceding months Reg had been moved from his home in the shed come stable to a nice large and dry garage which was certainly going to make things easier and considerably more pleasant. The approach I have decided to take with the car is to get it basically in running order, instead of going straight in with a full ground up rebuild as I think that at the moment this is beyond my skill level. Hopefully getting it roadworthy again will teach me the basics to allow me to ultimately do the full job that I am planning.

At present I'm not even sure if the engine runs, but that sounds scary looking at that so I instead decided to look at the brakes which haven't worked for the last three years. On initial inspection the pedal was hard down on the floor. Fearing the worst and that they had seized, I gave it a pull and to my pleasant surprise the pedal came up easily. This meant that the most likely culprit was a lack of brake fluid, though where it had gone was a problem that needed attention. First things first was to track down a suitable brake fluid from the local Halfords. My Haynes manual says to use Castrol Girling Universal brake and clutch fluid so in I went to find that it wasn't made any more. The helpful assistant asked me what car I needed to which I replied. He looked surprised to say the least! Never the less he made a few phone calls and I was presented with a bottle which "should do the job". We shall see. I also picked up a brake bleeding kit which basically consists of a piece of tubing and a valve. These obviously weren't in existence in the 60's as the manual describes a much more complicated method involving tubes and jam jars and a seemingly impossible task for a person on their own to complete. I'm glad times have progressed.

Back at the car and the first job was to find the master brake cylinder and check the fluid levels. Easier said than done. For some reason the lid pokes through a hole cut into the drivers footwell floor (which was made of wood to my surprise. See left.). The clearance here is very tight with only about a centimeter around the lid perimeter to get your fingers into. After much struggling it was clear that the lid wasn't going to come off by hand, so out came the WD40 and a monkey wrench. All that I managed to succeed in doing was pulling off the outer alloy coating of the lid. It was not going to budge. On the "wisdom" of my dad we decided the only option left was to remove it. Luckily it is located close to the edge of the car so access was going to be relatively easy, but as with anything on a car that has been stored for so long their were going to be a few nuts and bolts that had seized.

After finally finding the correct sized spanners we set about removing the two retaining bolts. They came off relatively easily though we had to use a fair amount of force. The main problem was disconnecting the brake line that leads to the slave cylinder. We didn't realise till too late that as we were unscrewing the connection, it was actually also twisting the brake line to the point at which it snapped off (being made of copper). That's another thing that now needs replacing. Still the main unit was free and all that was left was to remove the return spring connected to the brake pedal and the job was done. In terms of actual work that could be achieved this was about our limit due to time constraints.

Whilst we were there however I managed to locate several spare parts as shown in the picture, and a spare door, engine and chassis. You never know, they may come in handy in the future. As I was leaving however I happened to notice what appears to be a leak coming from the petrol tank. Good job I found a spare one of those as well.

reliant 3.1 reliant 3.2

Friday, 1 October 2004

Going Into Storage

10/2004: A year on from the original move into storage and I now find myself as the official owner of Reg. I've always loved this car but the circumstances in which I came by it I would never have wished for.

Its amazing how much a car can deteriorate in a year. Its hard to judge the condition of the paint work under a thick layer of dirt, but in a few areas pealing is clearly visible. This means a full respray will be on the cards when the time comes. A few suspicious hoof prints on the bonnet also give some indication that the inhabitants of Reg's shed clearly have no respect for a classic. They're goats in case you are wondering. We decided that one job to do before we left was to erect some sort of barrier to keep the animals off Reg. I wasn't too worried about the paintwork, more about the windscreen. Spares are very hard to find for a vehicle of this age.

reliant 2.1 reliant 2.2

The first thing I checked was the condition of the chassis. Thankfully this looked in good condition, with no visible corrosion. Being stored in a dry but well ventilated space has clearly had its advantages. As for the bodywork there were no problems of corrosion there. The joys of fiberglass. One area of concern though is the trim work. This has corroded and pitted quite badly, as have the hubcaps. I'm going to have to look into getting these restored by someone or possibly look into getting some replacements. Anybody got any parts lieing around?

The main reason for the visit was to jack the car up off its wheels to save damage to the suspension, and also to check that the engine was still well oiled to prevent it from seizing up. The first problem was that the car had rolled back very close to the rear wall. We tried to push the car away but had no success. I originally put this down to trying to push uphill, and the tires having flat spotted. It wasn't till the drive home that I had a flash of inspiration. We probably should have taken it out of gear!

No matter. We soldiered on. Next we got the jack out, unwrapped it and began to jack the car up. Its true that I had never jacked up a car before but my dad assured me he knew what he was doing. Anyway, I got the Haynes manual out, picked up off ebay a few weeks before, and set about locating the jacking points. No information. I really must be starting the learning curve from the very bottom. We chose a couple of likely looking places and jacked Reg up, lowering the chassis down onto several blocks of wood to keep the wheels off the ground. The goats were very intrigued by all this activity and decided to investigate. One minute I was looking under the car, jacking it up, the next I was faced by a goats head. It had crawled underneath the car! I bet that's one thing that not many people can claim to having to deal with while jacking up a car.

Eventually the task was completed, and it was time to build a separating wall. First we had to get a goat off the bonnet, again, then we nailed up some meshing which proved highly successful.

Its now approaching one year since this was written, and I'm preparing to transport Reg back from Wales to nearer my home so that the restoration process can start properly. The next update will tell the story of the move. I'm off to find a trailer, but check back soon.