Epic Restoration. ’The biggest restoration I’ve done’ – that was a supercar expert’s assessment on how he breathed new life into this Lamborghini Miura. ‘It’s the biggest job When a leading Lamborghini specialist tells you that after 45 years in the business, you know this Miura received the ultimate restoration Words Nigel Boothman. Photography Laurens Parsons.
1971 LAMBORGHINI MIURA SV
The team spent 1970 painstaking hours on this Miura – and found it shares more than the Lamborghini name with the Fifties tractor beside it. Prettier though.
If your Miura-owning fantasy were to include breakdowns, puddles of oil and rotten floors, it wouldn’t be much of a daydream. It would, however, be realistic. Bear in mind, though, that Lamborghinis were never expected to last for 40-plus years without a major rebuild. What’s more, it’s only in recent times that prices have risen to a point where painstaking restorations can pay for themselves.
Graham Robertson (above), owner of the car here, recounts his experience, ‘I got six or seven years out of it, having it fixed up as necessary. By 2011 it was getting silly to fix any of the leaks without doing the whole job, but I dropped it off with Colin Clarke Engineering in Hertfordshire for a service anyway. A few days later Colin rang and said, “Graham – it’s time”.’
Clarke has worked on Italian supercars for nearly 45 years and pulls no punches when asked to describe this task. ‘It’s the biggest job we’ve ever done,’ he says. ‘It took three years, but it turned out pretty well.’ The Miura is a 1971 SV. Robertson knew it had unoriginal features, such as incorrect rear lights probably fitted after an ‘airbrake moment’, when the rear clamshell is left unfastened and catches the air at speed. The red paint was also not as new – Robertson had bought the only RHD SV originally painted Lime Green, and the restoration has returned it to that hue.
STRIPDOWN AND ASSESSMENT
‘I could see daylight where the floor meets the back bulkhead’ With the somewhat scabby scarlet Miura on the ramp, Leigh Huggett (left) could se evidence of 40 years of hard use – at least by supercar standards. ‘There was quite a bit of rot in the tub,’ he says. ‘The floor looked bad and it had obviously struggled through a few MoTs with a patch here and a patch there.’ The Miura comprises a central tub with supporting structures to carry engine, transmission, steering and suspension. There is no separate tubular chassis, so strength in the tub is crucial. That strength comes from large box-sections in the sills and under the centre console, all with large holes punched in them from new to save weight.
The quality of the original workmanship didn’t help. ‘There are lots of really ugly welds on these cars,’ says Huggett. ‘Most are strong enough but not all, and after years of rust the car can lose a lot of rigidity.’ Evidence of this was most obvious after removing the seats and carpet. ‘The back edge of the floor, where it meets the rear bulkhead, takes a lot of the stresses and I could see daylight through there,’ says Huggett Corrosion wasn’t the only problem, says Clarke. ‘The car has had a few fights in its life; both the front and the rear have had to be pulled out at some point and there was some crash damage remaining on the front nearside corner. Nothing ever goes back on properly with these cars, but this one looked likely to be worse than most.’ Oil leaks had eaten the rear suspension bushes and from the way the car drove Clarke suspected he would uncover more trouble during the mechanical restoration Hours taken: 400
‘Just sorting out the front shroud took me two and a half weeks’ The repairs to the steel tub, doors and those huge front and rear shrouds were by some distance the longest and most important aspects of this restoration. The central tub needs not only to be strong, but also straight – everything else depends on that, from the fit of the doors and shrouds to the steering and suspension alignment.
The tub of Robertson’s Miura was sent to a sub-contractor who had previously been part of the team that created a Jota recreation for renowned Lamborghini enthusiast Piet Pulford, who was the owner of this Miura before Robertson acquired it. A purpose-built jig provided rigid datum points around which the lower half of the tub could be extensively rebuilt with as much of the original structure preserved as possible.
After many months of painstaking effort based on original factory working drawings the tub came back to Clarke’s workshop, where a dry fit was carried out. Sure enough, all the mechanical components fitted perfectly – apart from being 1mm out at the handbrake mounting. That was easily fixed, and the car could progress to the next stage.
Ask Clarke whether body panels or repair sections are available for the Miura and he’ll shake his head ruefully, telling you, ‘No, you need an Eddie.’ Eddie Noone (pictured above) of Vale Cottage Motors in Hornsey was also part of the Jota team, and took on responsibility not only for the Miura’s bodywork but for the paint too.
He describes some of the trials he had to tackle. ‘We found there was a ¾in gap at the back of the passenger door, so we had to cut and tilt the rear of the door to re-gap it,’ he says.
‘Then we started on the front shroud, which was really weak. We had to cut the lower front panel, make an outer and inner front panel and make sections of the frame to support this, while trial-fitting the headlamp assembly. Only then could we start fitting the shroud to the car.’
Noone had to cut and re-frame the whole rear edge of the Miura’s shroud, because matching its curve to the curve of the front edge of each door is vital for the correct appearance. ‘It took me about two-and-a-half weeks just to sort the front shroud,’ he recalls. ‘We had it on and off maybe 20 times.’
Fixing and fitting the rear shroud entailed an equally involved performance, this time including extra work to replace the incorrect rear lights. These turned out to be Maserati Ghibli units fitted possibly fitted by the factory following that early airbrake moment, with the gaps around them welded up. Hours taken: 500
‘You fit the front shroud on a Miura to the position of the doors – not vice versa – because the position of the doors is defined by the tub itself and can’t really be altered. But there’s no adjustment in the shroud’s hinges so you just have to keep working on the metal until it’s right.’
‘A broken selector bolt meant the gearbox was near to disaster’
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
Colin Clarke (left) has become so used to rebuilding complex and apparently frightening Italian V12s that he’s able to dispel a few myths about the classic Lamborghini engine. ‘The bronze valve guides wear and porous pistons are common, but otherwise they’re pretty bulletproof,’ he says. ‘Most Miuras had engines and transmissions that shared their oil, which could be a problem when bits of gearbox began circulating and damaging the crankshaft bearings. But this car, being one of the final 50-plus SV models produced, has a split sump, so that problem didn’t arise.’
What did arise was a worn camshaft, replaced with a new one from Clarke’s store of spares. Wear of this kind is caused by less-than-attentive servicing in the distant past, for which reason the cam follower buckets were also replaced. The little-end bushes, which are bronze, needed replacing and after a crankshaft re-grind to remove minor imperfections the crank assembly was dynamically balanced.
Unlike body and interior parts, the availability of mechanical spares is good, reports Clarke. ‘The factory is the first port of call. They’ve started reproducing things and they can usually supply what we need within 48 hours as long as we can give them a part number.’ With the gearbox removed from the engine and stripped, Clarke discovered how close to disaster the Miura had come. ‘A broken gearbox selector bolt would have allowed third and fourth gears to be selected together,’ he explains. Happily, little else was needed except the synchromesh cone for second gear, which is a weak spot and gets replaced as a matter of course. The clutch design is so similar to that of a Mini that the puller used to remove it is identical, except that it has a metric thread.
A few wry smiles appeared when Clarke bought a Fifties Lamborghini twin-cylinder diesel tractor as a project: its starter motor was identical to the oil-contaminated one he had to replace on the Miura. Hours taken: 400
‘The timing chains need adjusting by hand because the tensioners are not automatic. They use eccentric cams and pegs and are easy enough to do, except that one of them is behind the water pump, so it tends to get ignored, which can allow it to seize.
‘I used a traditional flipper and dolly to raise the shallow dents’
There’s an obvious benefit in having the bodywork repairs and preparation done by the man who’s team also has to paint the end result, and Eddie Noone brings immense skill and experience to each task.
Getting the metal surfaces ready for paint sometimes called for more than a skim of high-build primer, and Noone employed a traditional technique to raise shallow dents in the centre of the front shroud. ‘I used a flipper and dolly,’ says Noone. ‘The flipper is like a file bent into a loose Z-shape. You hold the dolly behind the area you’re working on and strike the dent with the flipper, so it flattens any high spots but also grips the metal and raises the low spots a tiny bit. When it’s level all over you file back the surface to get rid of the marks made by the flipper.’
Once Noone was happy that even the finest adjustments to the sheet metal were finished, a complex set of steps marked the process towards a perfect finish. ‘Our painter, Raz, started with small amounts of handapplied filler, rubbed down, and then used a very fine Glasurit spray filler, again hand-rubbed.
‘After that came a two-pack Lesonal primer and three coats of Glasurit 22 Line high solid colour in full gloss so we could look at the body lines and check everything’s right. This got rubbed down again and we applied two coats of Lime Green from Glasurit’s 90 Line range, which is water-based. Three coats of lacquer finished the job.’
Next the various black components of the car including those distinctive window louvres received two-pack satin black paint. Hours taken: 350
‘The finished car is perhaps the definitive right-hand-drive Miura (RHD)’
While the engine rebuild, metalwork and paint were being completed, Tom Ransom – who has built Lamborghinis for Clarke for 28 years – built up the four corners of the running gear.
After this he transformed the rebuilt bare tub into a running car. First new pipework for brakes and clutch went on, then a new wiring loom. Next came the engine bay panels followed by the headlining and rear screen. The engine and gearbox were dropped in from above, with tiny amounts of room to spare. Linkages, fuel tank and cooling pipes went in, then the pre-built corners were bolted on. Suddenly, it was a mobile Lamborghini. Next the interior trim was fitted, with Auto Lounge recreating the perfect original look for seats, door cards, dash and centre console. ‘They came along at the stripdown stage to take paper patterns from what was there,’ says Ransom. Finally the front and rear shrouds were fitted, receiving their lights and trim.
The finished car is perhaps the definitive right-hand drive Miura – the SV’s bigger hips give it a subtle extra dose of aggression while the deeply unsubtle green paint is surely the one we associate most with the model. The only issue now is the effect this restoration may have on the car’s use. ‘I used to have a car I was happy to go for a blast in any time,’ says Robertson ( 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 )
. ‘Now, I’m not so sure.’ What a nice problem to have. Hours taken: 320
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Thanks to: Colin Clarke Engineering (colinclarke engineering.co.uk, 01923 274545),Vale Cottage Motors (valecottagemotors.co.uk, 020 8348 1159)