Double the work?
OWNER: David Lillywhite
One of the golden rules of restoration has to be not to lose momentum. Of course I’ve broken that rule many, many times over the years, and most recently with the Citron SM.
It all started well over a year ago when the semi-complete SM had to be dismantled to fix a bent chassis leg and fractured suspension mount that had gone unnoticed. A little bit of enthusiasm died temporarily, a few new projects (a house restoration, Caterham racing, MGB tweaks, the usual nonsense) gained priority, and suddenly the Citroen project had slipped a few months.
SM super-guru Andrew Brodie and the guys at BL Autos came to the rescue, and we got the rebuilt engine reinstalled and running. I was so proud I even posted a video of the first start-up on YouTube - but that was last spring! Since then, with more house upheaval, an effort to attend even more classic events, and an apparent acceleration of the space-time continuum, I don’t seem to have made much progress over the last few months.
I think what really stalled me was my attempt to fit the mechanisms of the swivelling and tilting front lights. My car had a fixed-light US-spec front end. Andrew found me a European front end and all the crazy mechanical and hydraulic linkages that go with it. But can I work out how they fit? No I can’t - and that's where I left off.
Now, of course, I've got several hours of work ahead of me just trying to fathom out what I was up to when I abandoned ship. Why is the steering column binnacle stripped down, when I clearly remember assembling it last year? How far did I get rebinding the engine bay wiring harness? What the hell are all these bits of rubber trim doing everywhere! I feel like I’ve doubled the amount of work needed.
I know it sounds like a nightmare but actually it’s all part of the fun. I enjoy the total immersion of fiddling around with what was one of the most complicated cars in its day, and the highs of discovering how something bolts together. I love how good the car is beginning to look and the stunned expressions it prompts from friends and neighbours - six-year-old Connor next door has apparently memorised SM specifications. That I’m a full year behind schedule isn’t worth worrying about because this is a hobby, it’s meant to be fun and, when it stops being fun, it’s only sensible to drop it for a while.
Now, though, it’s time to get back on it, and I’m making a list of what's left to be done. In many ways the car looks much worse than it is, because in less than half-an-hour the wings and bonnet will bolt back into place and it will look complete.
So, first job is to route the tilting light mechanism control system from the rear suspension, along the passenger side inner sill, to the front end. Then the swivelling lights need to connect to the steering rack, which I’m still confused about, but Andrew has promised to enlighten me.
The thin alloy outer sills need straightening and repainting and the lower front valance needs to be fitted. At the other end, the repaired stainless steel rear bumper has to be picked up from BL Autos in Welwyn Garden City and refitted.
The interior is more or less finished but one electric window switch has packed up, and one window motor is a bit slow and needs a rebuild. The refurbished (now complete with iPod connection) original radio needs to go in, while the brand new footwell carpet needs to be unstuck to access the overlooked interior light switch wires, which are currently lost somewhere in the A-pillars.
In the boot, I need to cut some more carpet, retrim the parcel shelf and somehow remake the rear window interior trim surround.
And that's it. If I say it quickly, it seems like nothing at all.