A Special Builder's Notes


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18 August 2013


Not mine but the Hillman's.

Cook needed to visit her cousins near Dumfries and I spotted an opportunity to call in at the Howtown Hotel in Ullswater where the Hillman was first registered when new. (I billed the diversion as a bit of a mystery tour as Cook can be sniffy about car related business). The hotel is still run by the same family four generations on, so it would have been verging on the churlish not to have called in whilst we were in that neck of the woods, both to pay respects and see if the family had any photos of the Hillman when it was bought.

The hotel was a delight to behold - neat as a pin, warm and chummy and just how an hotel should be; not a stick of nasty white furniture in sight but complete with all the trappings of a genuine family home.  The owner was charming and very interested in the progress of the car and I'm pleased to report that Cook found it all a delight though unfortunately, no pictures of the Hillman at the hotel seem to exist.

We continued our journey Northwards through countryside that couldn't be more different from Suffolk...

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... and called in on chums in Settle before the final push to Gatehouse of Fleet where we were just too late to meet some of the crew of the USS Enterprise (the Mill on The Fleet is a popular and excellent lunch spot) before they beamed back aboard.

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Still, Cook's delightful cousins more than made up for this loss and we were royally treated to all the best of Scottish hospitality which included porridge made with oats and salt, a superlative malt with an unpronounceable name and a selection of remembrances from the Tales of Para Handy.

The route home saw us lunching in Ramsbottom with another chum - I can recommend 'The Hearth of the Ram' - and then a swift run through Snake Pass took us to the motorway system and back to Suffolk where, after a couple of days at work in Norfolk, I set about finishing the hood on the Hillman tourer.

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The first thing to do was tidy up the corners with some iron-on patch material and despite the shop having only brown available, it didn't look bad at all (the chequered stuff is the ironing board).

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Then I tacked on the piping I'd made earlier to finish the join of the hood with the body. Next, I attached to the inside of the hood and body 1/2" ply strips to give the material some chance of staying put...

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... and this was pushed tight against the piping.

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I cut a couple of curved bits for the corners and finished the bottom edges of the hood under the existing aluminium coaming which runs along the top of the doors.

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Then the tricky bit - pulling it all taught and tacking the cloth to the front. It was tricky because the frame isn't exactly symmetrical and drops away on the offside because the frame pins on that side have for some reason, more wear. I've tried straightening the whole shebang but it needs a complete rebuild to get it absolutely right. Still, it's already a lot better than it was.

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The last jobs will be to wrap the surplus cloth on the inside around the plywood strips, replace the back seat and finish off at the front with the edging strip that I rescued from the bin. The whole exercise turned out to be quite good fun in the end and I've learnt enough to do things slightly differently the next time round - think out more carefully the order of stitching so I don't have to resort to iron-on patches for instance....

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and also I won't punch out the holes for the window frame before I've got the hood on the car - I've got some adjustments to make before the final fit because the window was marked out with the cloth on the bench and on the car looks a bit left wing low - the root of the problem is the slightly cock-eyed frame.

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