BARNIE’S Restoration Story

In late November 2016 I received some details through my Adelaide French Car Club (Club Automobile Francais) there was a 1963 Renault R8 sitting in a barn in a vineyard near McLaren Vale South Australia and the owner wanted it removed from the barn so he could concrete the barn floor.

It just so happened that the very next day my wife and I were travelling to Victor Harbour and had to pass by McLaren Vale on the way so we decided to take a look and see what the car was like. The car had been in the barn for about 25years and I’m sure previously was under a gum tree in the paddock next door with the bonnet (boot/trunk) lid open and the Engine lid open, with the rocker box cover laying next to the engine! What a disaster for both the engine in the back and the boot/trunk area front.

Words fail me to describe what I saw but I can say it had two big beautiful (filthy) 45mm Weber side draft carburettors hanging out the side of the engine and that was enough for me to give it some serious thought. An Ok from the wife sealed the deal and a week later with the help of my Son and the vineyard owner we dragged the car out of the barn and brought it home on a trailer.

Most people who came to see the barn find (now named ‘BARNEY’) thought I had lost my marbles but I could see a future sparkling blue 1963 Renault R8 just needing a bit of tender loving care and a packet of money to get it back on the road as a track, hill climb or rally car. This car had been a rally car in it’s previous life.
The car had a lot of dented panels, heaps of rust and an engine that resembled a burial site BUT it was a Renault R8 and I love R8s.
First thing was to start the photos going so I took heaps of photos to remind me what I had taken on. First job, I removed the extractors and the rocker cover and had them grit blasted at A1 Grit Blasters then I ceramic spray painted the extractors and black enamelled the rocker cover. They came up beautifully which inspired me to keep on going. For those that live in South Australia you can’t beat the beautiful finish that A1 Grit Blasters (58 Stanbel Rd Salisbury Plains) gave the parts. I used them to help with some guards and boot/trunk cover. Really friendly guys Dean and John. Tell them you know the Renault man, Phil, and they will look after you I’m sure. I then took the 4 wide wheels down to A1 Grit Blasters and had them fine garnet grit blasted. These came up really well so I undercoated them and top coated them within the day, wrapped them up and put them away for a much later day. I then got onto the radiator, flush and clean, pressure test and cleaned out the petrol/gas tank and painted both parts.
Next I decided to clean out the front boot/trunk compartment, the inside of the car and the Engine bay. The rubbish filled a huge wheelie bin/trash bin and at least I could start to see the extent of the repairs needed. I was dead keen to see what a good clean through the boot/trunk area would look like so early December 2016 I spent a week just cleaning it up and finished with a coat of rust converter, followed by primer /undercoat ready for a spray Enamel finish.
After this area was completed I unbolted and removed all the guards, rear back panel, engine cover and front Boot/trunk lid. All these needed panel beating, some grit blasting and serious rust repairs so for the next 5 months I spent heaps of time rubbing, scrubbing, cleaning, preparing, bogging, priming/undercoating every dent, scratch, and rust hole I could find. I’m no panel beater so you can still see small variations to the surfaces but it won’t really matter as it’s not going for ‘show and shine’ entries, rather “sprint and hill climb” events.

I sprayed the panels using enamel pressure pack cans from my local hardware shop and mastered the art of a reasonable shine using a $10 clip on handle which clips straight onto the cans so as to become a spray gun. Don’t laugh, everybody that has seen the panels asked me who the spray painter was as it is such a good finish. There is an art in using this method but once you have the ‘distance to job’ and ‘spray speed’ mastered you will be surprised at the finish. I have a friend who helps restore old aircraft and he told me that one of the painters there actually painted a P5 Neptune using spray cans. I saw this aircraft in a HARS hanger at Albion Park Rail NSW glistening paint work and I couldn’t believe the beautiful finish came from spray cans.
Next on the list to do was the engine accessories. What a job! Took me three weeks to completely strip down, clean, restore and overhaul the two 45mm Side Draft Weber carburettors. I could hardly believe my eyes when 5 alive and well spiders crawled out of the venturies when the cleaners seeped through the openings. A further week to strip down the distributor and restore it to working condition. Then came the generator and alternator about a week each saw them looking and working like new.

Now came the best job on the car, the biggest challenge but the one I loved the most, the Engine. From a seized, filthy, disgusting weather tormented engine to a fully inspected, cleaned and restored, overhauled and mechanically operating engine took me approximately 4 months. Some of the greatest challengers were the freeing up of the seized engine, renewal/replacement of the broken camshaft, replacing the bent No.2 con rod, freeing up the oil pump rotor in the block!!! steel oil pump rotor in an aluminium block plus water and not being moved for 28 years spells disaster!! but it had to come out and I literally ran a 4 thou feeler gauge down the side of it with heaps of penetrine for almost every day for 3 weeks going around and around the rotor using the feeler gauge as a saw blade. Can’t put the number of hours this took but easily in excess of 40 and more. Patience my friend!! One good thing about this engine restoration you can still get a full seal and gasket set from France if you need to.

Next came the rear end de-rust, clean-up, rust converter and new paint all ready to take the reconditioned engine. Gearbox and Engine mounts cleaned, restored and replaced. Loctite 495 perfect for bonding rubber to steel, just make sure the surfaces are surgically clean.

Next on the list was the suspension and brakes. The shock absorbers were surprisingly in great shape, good firm resistance however the rear springs look like they were lowered at some stage of their life as they had height adjusters (one single coil of the spring)) under each of them to raise the car for rally work. I’m happy with the lowered look so I’ll see where we go with this one at a later date. At the stage of writing this report I have stripped down all four brake callipers and found that the pistons are still bright and shiny. Even the seals inside were in good condition indicating the brakes have probably been done just before the car was taken of the road. A light hone and a full set of new seals and dust protectors on assembly with new brake hoses will complete the brake calliper overhaul. Discs are being sanded back to new and are still 5.8 to 6.4mm thick. Fortunately over the years I have acquired a full new set of Bendix brake pads, front and rear.

Adelaide Today : 23rd December 2017
Well it’s 36 Centigrade outside and my tin garage is like an oven so it gives me time to write this up. I would much prefer to be in the garage working on ‘BARNIE’ but I’ve learnt a few things along the way doing this restoration and now I’ll share this with you.

The list below is written in Retrospect. Wished I new all this before I started.

• Don’t set yourself unrealistic dead line dates to finish your restoration. It drives you mad even when you rest up you end up feeling guilty because your not out there working on the car!

• Consider your health status before you start a job like this!

• Consider your family in the time aspect you are spending on that restoration, they don’t see the vision you have and they need to have your attention to.

• Be flexible, if it doesn’t work the normal way, think outside the square, be creative and resourceful.

• Don’t major on minor detail. Are you doing this for your enjoyment or are you doing it to avoid criticism from your so called friends?

• Don’t be afraid to ask for help, there are jobs you simply can’t manage by yourself.

• Give you friends the opportunity of helping you. Don’t let them offer and then they walk away thinking you don’t need their help. Would you like it done to you?

• Consider the amount of noise your making when it comes to upsetting the neighbours.

• Watch your restoration spending, it doesn’t have to cost the earth, be frugal.

• Take your wife/husband/partner and family out for good times more often than you did before the restoration started.

THINGS LEFT TO DO as at 20th January 2018
Radiator hoses replacement (Under car Front to Rear)
Re-install petrol/gas tank with electrical fuel pump.
Fix up Battery box and re-make Positive battery cable and connections.
Paint boot/trunk area.
Wrap wiring harness front boot/trunk area.
Clutch cable and Hand Brake cable clean up and adjustment.
Windscreens removed. New seals to be fitted after rust removal and paint.
Roof and upper body rust removal, rust converter, primer and paint.
All doors to come off and have rust removal, rust converter, primer and paint.
Inside cabin floor rust removal, rust converter, primer and paint.
Rear trim replacement.
Replace drivers and passengers seats with seat belts.
Dashboard clean-up and replacement gauges to fit.
Check out dashboard wiring and steering wheel lock etc.
Rework the front driving light panel and underneath tyre cover area, carry out panel beating, rust removal, rust converter, primer and paint, wiring, lights, blinkers etc.
Fit flywheel and clutch to Engine.
Wrap engine and rear panel wiring loom.
Re-fit Engine and accessories to car body.
Engine Oil replacement.
Radiator and Engine Coolant replacement
G/box oil replacement.
Grease all grease nipples.
Re-install all guards.
Re-install all doors, door rubbers and door closer springs
Re-install front boot/trunk cover and rear light panel.
Re-install interior floor mats.
Re-install wide wheels with new tyres (175x70x14)

Guess I’ll complete this report when I finish the restoration, hopefully later 2018.

Cheers all
Phil
(‘aussiefrogs’ identity – R8philSA)