Now available for sale, the unique green Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, NFG 858W.
This unique car has been sympathetically restored to keep as much originality as possible, all original structure and panelwork has been repaired and refabricated, not replaced with dodgy pattern parts, seam welded and lead loaded to present an original looking vehicle.
Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, NFG 858W. One of only two original green ones to emerge from the factory. Believed to be the only one left. Sold to the public in May 1981. It forms the subject of an official Team Lotus publicity photograph, and informed sources tell me that it was originally destined for evaluation as a Q car by the Police, and may have been used by the Police in Newcastle, which was where it eventually re-entered the Talbot Dealership network as a "new" car.
On this first page we investigate what appears on the surface to be a car in very good order and discover some horrific previous "restoration" work. We then cut out all of the rot ready for refabrication works to begin.
Pics when the car was in some form of original condition. New or almost new.
They aren't brilliant because these were Polaroids. Note the Ti type spoiler, mirrors, non Lotus petrol cap, Minilite wheels, towbar and four mudflaps.
Still haven't quite worked out where this is, below, yet, but it could be in a drivers' parade or a Lotus cars parade judging by the window number denoting "type 81", and sticker. Note there are many details here which exactly match the pictures above, except that now it has side stripes. This is a Team Lotus Marketing official photograph.
About the car.
The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus has rapidly turned into an iconic classic. Designed specifically as a World Beating rally car and produced in limited numbers for sale on the High Street more or less specifically for homologation purposes, to allow the car to be rallied, the car was the last of the line of such cars. It was the car that knocked Ford off the top slots in rallying, and was the last two wheel drive winner of the World Rally Championship.
This particular car is very interesting. It will be noted that firstly it is green. This is original and there is no evidence anywhere on the shell that it was ever any other colour. All "normal" production cars were either black or light metallic blue. This is only one of two cars to have been finished in this colour new from the factory.
An informed source tells me that this car was allocated to Newcastle Police for a time in the capacity of high speed persuit car, in the vein of those allocated to Greater Manchester Police, and registered there; although the Contract did not materialise apparently. It was sold on the open market from a garage in Sussex, having been bought by them on a Talbot Dealer scheme.
The car has a complete history file which includes the originals of the pictures above. The file includes a complete list of previous owners, together with receipts etc. for work undertaken on the car, which includes stage two tuning, to 180bhp (rolling road demonstrated), lsd fitment, and uprated suspension (Bilstein).
Although having been converted to have a Series two front end, with the larger headlights and updated grille and having at some time, lost its spoiler, it was obviously originally a Series one car, and the intention is to return it to that original state, once again with spoiler fitted.
It is in generally good condition, but nevertheless it still has considerable rot which has to be cut out and replaced sensitively so as to keep as much of the original vehicle intact as possible and to preserve the rest of it. Hence there is no wholesale panel replacement. All the existing panels are to be repaired with new metal.
Having this car to work on is very exciting and one feels responsible for the preservation of a very important piece of motoring history.
On collection, 21st October 2010
8th January 2011
Engine bay after initial degreasing spray. 7th Jan 2011
Some details as existing.
Stage one. Assessment.
Firstly, on getting into the workshop, an assessment is made of what work will be required to bring the car up to a standard which will see it last another thirty years plus, without major bodywork issues.
This means a strip down of all body fittings, inside and out, to allow proper detailed inspection of all rust prone areas. The mechanics are sound on this car, apart from a tune up and some run of the mill issues, so are not covered here.
After this, some investigation takes place in areas which are obviously suspect and in need of attention.
Previously replaced cills appear to be a bonus, although obviously not finished for longevity as the rust already appearing testifies! Time to preserve them then!
Rear bottom of front wing, near side.
Off side wing / cill / door joins.
This nearside door is a replacement, hence the satin black paint showing through. Not much in the way of preservation undertaken by whoever fitted it!
Green door catches. Something I absolutely detest is preppers who can't be bothered to even mask off things like this, when really they should be removed anyway, to spray. What else have they not bothered to do?
The sunroof was a bit awkward to remove, but yielded eventually in one piece, to reveal various degrees of crustiness underneath. The sunroof itself is crusty inside and will need some reconstruction.
Some issues on the inside of the arches in the rear of the shell too.
No I haven't cut out the back panel, that is original. The saw is just resting there after work on the outside!
Issues where the new cills have not been properly painted after installation, leading to premature rusting. Also much surface rust on floor pan in footwells. Nothing major here. Parts of floorpan have been replaced and painted in grey primer. These are the rusty bits, due to incomplete protection!
Morgan, "helping" with hammer and chisel, after more pocket money.
Now for the invasive bits.
Looks fairly inoccuous doesn't it?
So does this!
What the previous restorer didn't want you to know is that there are at least three previous repair sections welded and blended in with filler, underneath the latest "skin deep" tart up, and this why it needs doing again. Like I said before, many restorers just do not go the extra mile to make their work last! The horror story unfolds further in this area as we follow on below. Luckily it seems like the cills are ok and there doesn't appear to be old ones lurking underneath them, but these rear corners are an abysmal example of "professionalism"
That innoccuous looking near side rear from the inside. The inner arch and rear section of the inner wing is shot and needs cutting out.
Like this. A previous lower repair weld line is seen with the repair piece already cut off, diagonally from the hole to the top right, and a further repair piece in the corner has been mostly cut out already, with the overlaps still flapping in situ. Quite a mess. It seemed quite solid to the side wall......
But on investigation outside and discovering this, I decided to remove the section as while it seemed solid inside, there was something funny going on. Not only this, where a further new arch piece had been welded on top of everything else, but that this had also been leaking in moisture from the rear due to bad finishing. It had to come out.
Furthermore, the horror continues because this previous repair piece, which as can be seen has at some time been finished in green, was inside the new arch repair ring, not sealed to it, so the new ring is as rusty as an old tin can, and had to be sliced inside the welds to peel it away.
Eventually we are left with this, which may be a promising start for a rebuild, as the arch line is still there, as is the rear lower corner. We just need to shape up a new piece to fit in the hole and refabricate the inner arch to match the original one.
The only remaining issue is what to do about this where we can see three layers. The new outer arch ring, the original arch and the original inner arch. All a bit crusty but not in the lace curtain bracket and reasonably solid, and hopefully saveable. More investigations determined that the only way forward was to remove the outer arch and trim the inner one, refabricating it back to original shape, before refitting the outer arch ring again.
This is all that's worth saving on the near side, so we shall have to get fabricating! Still it hasn't finished though because we are about to cut off the whole arch in order to treat the inner arches and inner wings, before welding it back on again. The amount of filler in this section and still in the arch ring is incredible. It did look nice on the surface before chopping it all about, but it wasn't about to last very long!
Ditto the off side. That new arch ring has been leaking moisture to the outside under the filler skimming, as it was not seam welded or protected on the inside, ugh. The original arch ring is still under the new one, hence it has to come off again.
This is the driver's side rear quarter, and the remains of the inner wing can be seen ready to cut out, and if you look carefully, you can also see the original outer wing section inside the "new" one. Horrific.
There, if you didn't spot it above, here it is being peeled off, complete with remains of the original finished surface. Lower inner wing already cut off, and good riddance to a terrible moisture trap. Hopefully the "new" arch ring can be saved.
The bonnet edge was deceptively good looking until investigations started.
A fair bit of reconstruction needed to the edge of the frame and the skin.
Doors now removed and on the bench for skin removal and reconstruction of skin and frames. I wonder what we are in for...?
The removed off side skin shows much pitting to the lower inner edge and a flange no good for anything. You can see the clean up pitting but not the flange very well here. Both leading and rear corners are shot too, so some reconstruction is needed here, probably from the swage line down, and the higher, rear piece. There was much surface rust under the top curve too, which has been cleaned off. Impossible to reach with the skin fitted.
Rear of door frame needing attention.
Even where the folded seam was perfect, there was underlying surface rust on the unpainted original steel, so at least we can stop this now in its tracks.
The flange is generally reasonable except for a few pin holes.
Supposedly wax treated, there isn't much evidence of it here! Time to clean it all out, repair it and paint it shiny green before sealing up all the joints and treating to Dinitrol or Dynax S50.
A couple of small surface bumps in the C pillar led to investigation of what appeared to be a perfect panel. We were straight into filler.
The filler kept coming out until this emerged.
It was even worse on the other side. This appears to be due to water entering the vents in the pillar and collecting at the bottom of the plastic liner which seals to the pillar just under where the rust holes have emerged. Unbelievable. There doesn't appear to be any drainage provision in the design. There will be now!
Back under the rear end, the chassis leg isn't too bad, but a couple of holes indicate all isn't that well, and the top outer secion will need replacing along with the section of floor above it. Different layers of various arch sections are now visible.
Front End Woes.
The front wing is welded to the valance. The welds are not visible until the joint is cleaned out of jointing compound exposing them as below.
These had to be sliced through to remove the wing. The rest of the wing is fixed with screws and were dead easy to remove by contrast.
The first sight greeting us on the off side.
Which soon gave up its horrendous secrets. A bit of fabrication to be done methinks...
A bit of poking revealed this.
The nearside is better but still with some problem areas.
Solid on this side anyway!
Offside front leg post mortem.
Investigations showed that the whole front leg of the chassis would have to come off and be renewed. Very dodgy previous repairs consisting of a number of patch welds over holed areas without removal of old rusty steel have ensured that this requirement has come sooner than it ought to have. This plus the total absence of any cavity protection.
Inside the box section looking forwards.
Crossmember bolt can be seen sticking up through a pile of "cornflakes".
Investigations continue without so far finding an end point!
And although a new piece had been welded onto the side member between the turret legs, the base all round the crossmember mount had also gone into holes due to the layers of repairs harbouring moisture.
I'm a paragraph. Click once to begin entering youBefore it could be cut out, this crossmember bracing bracket had to be cut off. It had been welded on as a cheap way of repairing the base of the chassis leg instead of proper plating. It shouldn't be welded as it is a bolt on item, the holes being those for the anti roll bar mount which go through into captive nuts inside the chassis. The bracket was "dewelded" by cutting the welds off with the cutting disc. What a horrendous botch.r own content. You can change my font, size, line height, color and more by highlighting part of me and selecting the options from the toolbar.
This view shows the double skinning of the inner rail due to a hastily welded on patch over a very rusty and holey original side member which is still in position. Cross member bolt in base rail.
Removal of the base rail. Captive nuts visible for crossmember and anti roll bar. That side repair piece will have to come out too, as it is double skinned inside with the original side piece.
Mostly done now except for the trimming up ready for the new one to be attached. Measurement line up marking notes to left for the fixing holes.
Having said that, I did not like the repair piece to the rear, on which my white markings are shown. It was appearing to hide something as it was welded in too high up the inner arch, and I did not like this anyway as it looked wrong. It was decided that it had to come out too, as below. My hunch paid off as you can see. This will now be repaired properly in that the inner wing will be repaired separately from the chassis leg.
It was then decided that after inspection, the bottom flange of the inner wing was not in good condition and while it was still possible to do easily, this would also be replaced. This, and the new chassis leg could then be all bench welded together before final plug welding in place.
This view to the rear of the cut out section shows that we have thankfully reached the limit of the rot and from here back it is pretty okay.
It had already been decided that the rear arch rings would have to be removed even though they had been renewed. This was because they had been stitched in place over the top of the original arches and inner arches without any treatment or cutting out of rust. There was three layers of steel all very rusty and falling apart. It was touch and go whether the new rings could actually be saved. The inner wing was already detached and this is the sight greeting us on removal of the arch and remains of the rear quarter. The front lower portion was left in place as it has formed part of the much better quality cill repair job. The edge of the inner arch ring will be trimmed back to good metal.
And this is the inner face of the cut out arch ring. Spot welds where the new ring was attached, and the frilly edge of the original arch. In order to save the new arch, this layer will be removed. Note the rough cardboard templates underneath for new rear quarter sections.
This is the front edge of the nearside arch showing various layers of metal. More will have to be removed before this can be made good.
Cutting and peeling off the frilly original arch reveals that the new one is still quite good on the whole. There is still green paint on the outside of the original arch!
This one is the other side and had more rust incursion under the original layer. Thankfully it is still surface rust though, will little thickness erosion
Intermediate Reality Check
Now that the invasive investigation stage is coming to a close and the re-fabrication stage is about to start, it may be a good time to reflect on what all this is costing.
It is a bit acedemic because I own the car, as I bought it in to restore, but nevertheless it is costing my time. I happen to think that this car is worth the input, due to its very interesting history.
For those contemplating something similar, to date, the complete works pictured here up to now, have cost 110 hrs, which translated into hard cash, to you, would be a cool £2200 seeing as I love the work so much (!)
Now let's carry on and move to page two, covering the refabrication work.