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IST CENTURY ROMAN CHARIOT 1930 BSA SLOPER 557CC AND SWALLOW SPORTS SIDECAR 1932 MERCEDES SSK DROP HEAD 1959 ROVER P4 100 1989 NISSAN EXA

1959 ROVER P4 100

I have always wanted a Rover P4. So when the opportunity came up I took it. They were expensive cars in their day. If you were in the Upper Class English Gentry then this was the car for you. The stuff of tweed jackets and the rest.

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I contacted the Natal Rover Owner's Association and they, through their membership, found me this car. It is a 1959 Rover P4 100 with a genuine mileage of 54000 miles or 86 400 km. My thanks to the Rover Association for helping me find this car.

Natal Rover Owner's Association

My thanks also go to Paul Deglon for all the hard work he did on this car, before I bought it, to get it up and running.
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The history of this car is as follows:

In 1959 Betty Tapson a young lady in her twenties had just returned from a holiday in England. Her family owned the Hawthorn Hotel which was situated on the corner of Gillespie and Smith Streets Durban. This was a beach front hotel.

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She informed her wealthy parents that she intended returning permanetly to England. In an effort to keep her in South Africa, her parents offered to buy her a car. This seemed a reasonable idea although she did have some reservations. Mainly because she knew very little about cars.

So Betty walked down Smith Street and the first dealership she came to was Rover. It could have been any other make but by luck it was Rover and Betty liked the cars she saw.

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The saleman at the Maxwell Campbell Rover Dealership Smith Street must have watched in amazement when young Betty walked in, pointed at the Rover and said can I have that one please. She certainly had taste. Not sure about the parents reaction when they got the account. Rovers were not cheap, but then again they had offered to buy her a car!
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In 1961 Betty got married. The Rover was shipped to Venice where she and her husband toured Europe for their honeymoon. On the back of the car are still the original stickers of the countries that they visited. Italy, Germany, Australia, Switzerland and France. Their tour ended in England and the car was shipped back to Durban via South Hampton where it remains today.
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The first thing that I did was to go through the car and fix anything in order to take it for its COR test (MOT). I sorted out the brakes, replaced two of the steering ball joints and did a few other minor things. I was very pleased it passed, so licencing all done.
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I will do a running restoration on this car as the body and mechanics are in a very good condition. I will post photos as steady progress is made.

The paint on parts of the aluminium bonnet and doors was flaking off. Some parts were so bad that you could use your nail to remover the paint.

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I decided it would be better to use paint stripper to take all the paint off the aluminuim panels and apply a new primer.

I used a wooden scraper so as not to damage the soft aluminium skin. The steel sections looked solid so these will be flatted down.

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When the paint came off the doors there appears to be a two tone section which should not be there.
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This pattern is repeated on this side as well. Not sure why this is perhaps some Rover experts can give the answer.

Normally the two tone colours were split under the beading. Perhaps it was done to protect the lower body against stone chips.

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Once the original paint is off I will spray on an aluminium etch primer which will provide good adhesion to the aluminium.
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I took the inner door panels off and overall everything looks good.
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The door panels have seen better days so I will cut out new masonite panels and use the originals as a pattern.
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The front drivers door had sagged quite badly and would drop when it was opened. I loosened the 6 bolts and with an assistant I lifted the whole door parallel to the ground. This sorted out this problem.
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Nice door gap and door opens and closes as it should.
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The boot lid also got the paint stripper treatment. There was some minor damage to the RHS bottom corner but will sort this out. Overall not to much damage on the body.
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When I was taking off the rear number plate I dropped a washer into the boot aperture so I got a magnet and placed up against the boot outer skin. I heard the washer ping against the magnet.I dragged the washer along until I could reach in and pull it out. The washer had locked in to this piece of sand paper and pulled it along. Must have been left by worker when he repaired the boot lid. Pity it was not a treasure map.
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The RHS passenger door was not flush with the body and also the door gap was out. so I made up some 3mm thick spacers to move the door out. These I drilled and cut as per the originals.
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The door moved out and I reset the door to give a nice even gap.
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The rear passenger side fender had some rust. I never like to take a flame to a car. The dangers of fire, burning off any protective paint on the inside of a panel and warping the panel with heat are some of the reasons.
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I applied some derust solution to the rust. I then painted the inside area with some etch primer. I then cut a steel plate to go over a much bigger area than the rust.
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I rough sanded the steel plate and used some Sika Power 4720 body panel apoxy.
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I mixed this on the steel plate.
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This was clamped into place and allowed to set.
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Some body filler and because the plate covers an area much bigger than the original rust, it will be many years before it comes back.
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With the wheels removed the car was up on jack stands
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The body was flatted down.
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All minor dents were filled.
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Ready for masking up.
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I painted the bare aluminuim with a grey aluminuim etch primer.
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The whole car was then painted with this pale yellow NS primer. I used more of this primer on the aluminuim sections as they had been taken down to bare metal. This will give me more build to flat down the car later.
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I used a smaller amount of the NS primer on the steel sections. These had already paint on them and I did not want to overload these panels with too much paint. One thing, never underestimate the size of these cars. They are with out doubt big cars to paint!
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So the night before the big respray I got to thinking 'what if old Auntie does not like the colour of the paint and I get kicked up the proverbial'.
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I did not like the original beige colour of the car.
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I looked at all the colours used on the Rover P4 and none of them leaped out and said this is the one.
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So I took the original Rover grey and matched as best as I could with an equivalent in a Silver / Grey Metallic.
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I painted on the base coat. These are very big cars, with lots of curves, so no easy task to spray but wow that colour.
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I let the base coat flash off before the clear coat is painted on. Spraying a metallic is in itself not easy compared to a solid colour.
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Incomparison to painting the metallic the clear coat is very basic...
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...and the shine started coming through.
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Not to shabby. Auntie well pleased.
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All masking off.
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Tyres cleaned up. Hub caps polished.
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Windows polished. Important step this, if you want to make your car look good then polish the windows.
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Ready for all the chrome work.
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The back bumper went on fine. Just needed a few spacer washers to get some clearance when the boot opened.
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Lights and the number plate assembly fitted in well.
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Door handles went in.
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Mirror on and the wipers.
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Front looking good with the lights and Viking badge, beading still to go on.
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I decided to replace the door panels.
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Over the years, the sun and water damage have taken their toll. So I cut new masonite panels.
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I used the old panels as a template but will keep the existing trim for now.
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The door panel looks straight and is now much more robust.
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One thing that I found while driving this car was that the front seat moved forward. This was made worse if there was no one in the passenger seat. The seat, it appears, relies on gravity to keep it in place.

My theory is that because we drive our cars upside down in the Southern Hemisphere compared to the Northern Hemishere, the effects of gravity are much less. So I looked at making a bracket to keep it in place.

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It is advisable never to drill through a seat frame. They are made light weight and need every bit of steel they are made of to remain intact. In addition if parts are made of spring steel then it just ain't gonna happen in a hurry anyway.

I decided to make up a bracket that would slot into the seat frame base and hold the seat firmly into position without any modification to the seat. So the right hand block locks into the seat frame channel. The next block is a spacer. The thin block gets pushed by the bolt and locks the seat to the frame positively.

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The bracket slots into the channel of the seat frame base. This allows it to slide into any position. This is fitted from underneath with the seat in position. The loose plate has a tapered hole that allows the bolt to locate properly. This plate applies pressure and keeps the seat locked into position. I made two brackets one for the drivers side and another for the passengers side.
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Bracket fitted into place.The bolt applies pressure to the plate and keeps the seat from moving. On the other side of the seat is the spacer block so it all locks in positively. The bracket can be painted to match the colour of the seat or left black.
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Solid seat, snug fit no movement. Proves the upside down driving theory quite correct. Having taken the car out for a drive I can honestly say that this was with out doubt a worth while exercise.
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Fitting seat belts to a classic car like the Rover P4 is not in its self a difficult job, but care must be taken so that each connecting point is as strong as it can be with the limitations of what we have to work with.

In a collision a person's mass can increase many times over. This will depend on how much they weigh, how fast they are travelling and how fast they are stopped. So each connecting point could be subjected to a substantial load at the point of impact.

I looked at the B post and I would not be happy to merely bolt a plate between the two slotted holes and hope that in a collision the top bolt would not tear the thin steel apart.

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I welded up two rectangular blocks using 6mm flat bar. These would be a tight fit and slot into the B post so acting as a wedge. The B post is quite deep so it would take a substantial force to twist it out.
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Holes were drilled into the blocks to reduce weight without affecting the structural integrity. I welded on a top plate that would bolt into the top slot of the B post and threaded three holes to bolt on the upper seat belt bracket.
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I then welded on the tail section that would bolt into the lower slotted hole.
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The bracket bolts between the two slotted holes. The block is a tight fit in the B post and because the force is directed at around 45 degrees, it will try and twist itself out. This way we have an additional locking effect at the point of load. This is like a nut trying to turn a set spanner. The only different in this case is the nut is held in the spanner with two bolts.
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The upper belt bolted in nicely, with the cover piece on, it provides a strong connection.
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The Rover floor is quite substantial. This is the bracket I made up to hold the inner seat belt. Under the floor was another bigger plate. This will help to distribute the load in case of a collision. Note the bracket is angled in the direction of the force applied to it.
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The lower belt is bolted on, it does not interfere with the passenger floor space and is very much hidden by the carpet. It is a flexible belt so there is no problem with seat adjustment.
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This is the bracket I made for the outer belt and belt spindle. This provides a strong connection at this point.
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Looks neat with the carpet covering most of the bracket.
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The whole seat belt is in, looks good, comfortable to use and secure. The carpeting can now be replaced.
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The local Bridal Gallery were having an open day and they asked me to put the car on show.
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Good display all dressed up.
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The waist line clips were riveted into position. Care was taken when doing this so that the rivet gun did not rebound and hit the car body.
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I used a tapered piece of wood to push the beading onto the clip. This gave me a reduced pressure on my hand but an increased pressure on the beading above the clip.
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Nice ovehead view. Well balanced car. Very neat lines.
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I took the Rover to the VCC car show held at Hillcrest High School. I told Betty that it would be there. She made the effort to come along.

Here she is, this great lady, who barely into her twenties stunned the Rover Salesman and bought this car brand new, for cash, way back in 1959.

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Two Great Ladies. What more can I say.
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