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    David Lillywhite
    David Lillywhite joined the group Ferrari F40
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    On track in SM - sadly not mine... #1973-Citroen-SM / #1973 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen

    1973 CITROEN SM

    DAVID LILLYWHITE @Drive-My David

    The Caterham has been returned to the factory, now the Academy season is over. The MGB and Saab are reunited in a barn down the road. And the SM is back, awaiting my attentions after BL Autos made such a nice job of realigning the front chassis legs, repairing a previously hidden rust spot further back on the engine bay chassis members, and refitting engine, gearbox, brakes, steering and suspension.

    In case you’ve missed a couple of episodes, I had done all that before the chassis problems were spotted, so I asked BL Autos to strip and rebuild the engine bay. It cost me £1000 but I really couldn’t face doing all that work again.
    Inevitably, my enthusiasm for the project was beginning to wane, roughly in parallel with the emptying of my bank account. But along came SM guru Andrew Brodie with his well-campaigned SM, fresh from a fourth place on the Mini Britannia, to the Drive-My track day at Goodwood, and he let me out to play in it.

    On a wet and shockingly slippery track, the long, heavy Citroen appeared to have no grip at the rear, slipping and sliding this way and that. But as the track began to dry, the SM demonstrated handling and poise worthy of much smaller, sportier cars. It rolled about, the rear wheels skittered; but when it did let go it was easy to catch, and it just flew round the track, prompting smiles, amazement and perhaps just a little fear from other drivers.

    I loved it. Balancing the weight of the big SM on its hydropneumatic suspension was as satisfying (perhaps more so) as driving a more obviously track-orientated car around the fast Goodwood circuit. I went home feeling inspired. It’s SM time again!
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    ‘Assistant editor Keith Adams was tempted but bailed out and suddenly it seemed crazy not to buy it'

    CAR: #1973-Citroen-SM / #1973 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen /

    CAR: David Lillywhite Editor American beauty?

    I sometimes wonder if we unwittingly try to out-idiot each other on car magazines. I was chatting to another editor recently and he said I've just bought two Jensen Interceptors for £1000'. I was impressed, but was able to counter with I've just bought a Citroen SM project unseen in the States'. From the embarrassed silence around the table, it seemed I'd won. It was all assistant editor Keith Adams' fault. He'd been chatting with SM guru Andrew Brodie about how good it would be for one of the Drive-My team to own an SM. Before we knew it. Andrew had sourced a project car and was metaphorically dangling it in front of us. Keith was tempted but bailed out, the others just smiled politely, and suddenly it seemed crazy not to buy it.

    The car was one of several project SMs owned by classic Citroen specialist land ice racing champion) Dave Burnham in New York state, an old friend of Andrew's. In fact, Andrew had already bought it from Dave for a few thousand dollars, without knowing what he was going to do with it - at least until I agreed to buy it at cost. Admittedly, I'd loudly proclaimed that I was never going to buy another rusty classic ever again, and I had a £15,000 budget to spend on, well, something. It was going to be a 911, but after spending months looking I had to admit that I can't afford a decent pre-1973 and that I don't really like the later cars enough. And there's no room for my increasingly lanky daughter to sit in the back. An SM for £15,000 might be OK or it might need an engine overhaul, new suspension spheres, a transmission rebuild, body repairs... You get the idea. So I've convinced myself that yet another project is the way to get the car I want. The car I've bought has a dented rear wheelarch, scruffy paint, a few patches of light surface rust, but no serious corrosion except in the boot.

    The gearbox is good, the suspension has already been overhauled, the seats are presentable except for a couple of areas of loose stitching and there's nothing missing. The engine runs well - there's a video on the Drive-My website - but to be safe it needs to be stripped and rebuilt, which Andrew has offered to do for a fixed price. He also has a European front end available, to replace the ugly US-spec headlights, and an uncracked dashboard top. The body, minus engine, will go off to the local paintshop who painted the MGB (twice, after its fall from a workshop's ramps). We reckon that the project will cost around £15,000, including shipping from the US. And while it's on the boat I'm going to try and get the MGB finished (the blown engine is being rebuilt) and the historic race kart back together II relented and had the chassis blast-cleaned, and it's now resplendent in sparkling red). An idiotic plan? Maybe.

    Above One scruffy Citroen SM, waiting for shipment to the UK; interior is as wacky as the overall driving experience.
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    Double the work?

    CAR: #1973-Citroen-SM / #1973 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen

    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.
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    Spot the difference…

    CAR: #1973-Citroen-SM / #1973 / #Citroen-SM / #Citroen

    OWNER: David Lillywhite

    Progress has been made! I’ve spent several happy evenings in the garage now that temperatures aren’t quite so low (and I’m not feeling quite so lazy), and have moved closer to the point at which we’ll be able to fire up the SM’s Maserati V6 for the first time. When I say ‘we’, I mean myself and friendly guru Andrew Brodie, who has been gently nagging me to get on with things for several weeks now. He’s about to return from holiday, so I’m hoping he’ll be pleasantly surprised, even if the picture below doesn’t look very different from last month’s view.

    I started by cleaning the triple carburettors and bolting them into place, connecting up the linkages and cables. Then it was on to the cooling system, cleaning the hoses, working out how to thread them through the labyrinth of pipes and fittings, and connecting up the repainted radiator. The electrics seem, so far, relatively simple, although I was lucky that BL Autos had kindly wired up the twin Lumenition ignition conversion when the car was in for chassis work. I need to re-bind the engine loom, though.

    The pictures I took on stripdown have bailed me out of a world of pain: just working out how to route the oil cooler hoses, determining which way round a hose fits, and so much more would have been impossible without them. My laptop is looking a bit shabby after all the hours it has spent in the garage, but that’s a small price to pay for access to hundreds of images.
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    David finally buys a 911… #2001-Porsche-911-Carrera-2 / #2001-Porsche-911-Carrera-2-996 / #2001 / #Porsche-911-Carrera-2 / #Porsche-911-Carrera-2-996 / #Porsche-911-996 / #Porsche-911 / #Porsche-996

    DAVID LILLYWHITE

    You know when there’s car money burning a hole in your bank account? How easily it slips away into kitchens, holidays, mortgages and other such non-essentials, when really it should be spent on another highly impractical vehicle. So, with the Citroën SM sold, it seemed I should get on with making use of the cash – but what to buy? My plans veered wildly, but kept returning to the car that has escaped me for 20 years: #Porsche 911.

    It wasn’t so long ago that I could almost afford a pre-73 but those days are long-gone, thanks to everescalating prices (Porsche values started to increase as soon as I sold my 914, it seems). Then I could almost afford an SC but I never found one I really liked. A 964? Well, maybe, but by the time I’d overcome my distrust of that model, they’d shot up in price. Too late for a 993 too, though that would have made a great blend of classic 911 feel and more modern usability.

    What about a 996? I’m sure I remember being as appalled as everyone else when they were launched in 1997 with watercooling and the same front end as the Boxster, but they’ve grown on me and are refreshingly petite compared with the current 911. And they’re still cheap, as 911s go. There are horror stories about leaking rear main seals (not such a big deal) and the self-destructing intermediate shaft bearing (a very big deal. though not as common as is made out, and avoidable). It’s also fair to say that interiors don’t wear as well as in previous 911s. But they’re great to drive, if not quite as characterful as older 911s.

    And they’re going up in value! I was hit with The Fear. Surely I wouldn’t miss out again? It seemed that prices started at £10,000 but, once I started looking more closely, that was for Tiptronic convertibles, maybe with accident repair history, certainly with 100,000 miles or more. I wanted a manual coupé Carrera 2 with full service history and absolutely no previous bodywork repairs. A high mileage I could put up with. Seemed that £15,000 would be needed. I viewed hundreds online, and a handful in the metal. None quite did it for me, the deciding factor often a dubiously coloured interior, or the rather too-common silver paintwork. And then I found a metallic black (with black leather) 2001 Generation 2 Carrera 2 with full history, three previous owners and 52,000 miles. It was just over my £15,000 budget but Gen 2 gives a better-quality interior, torquier 3.6-litre engine (Gen 1s are 3.4) and cleaner styling.

    So as you can see, I bought it. I’m not sure what to do with the registration plate at the moment but other than that I’m delighted! More next month.

    Meanwhile, there was still a chunk of SM money hanging around. I wondered aloud on Twitter about a VW camper (but did I really want another timehungry vehicle?) and was rescued by Toyota PR manager James Clark, who suggested the press garage’s Proace van, converted to a highspec camper for a trip to Le Mans, and about to be offered for sale. You’ll see it above in Toyota’s Le Mans vinyl wrap, since removed. Not quite the classic camper I’d romantically imagined but actually rather useful for long-distance trips to Spa, Nürburgring and the like (when I don’t take the 911). And so another vehicle joins the fleet…
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    David Lillywhite
    David Lillywhite joined the group Porsche 911 996
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