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Beauty is the purgation of superfluities. Michelangelo A car can massage organs which no masseur can reach. It is the one remedy for the disorders of the great sympathetic nervous system. Jean Cocteau I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object. Roland Barthes


Alberto Cosi

TREASURES ON WHEELS Great Classic Cars in Thailand

ital ian connection


Publisher

Buachan Piyasak

Texts Written by

Robert Tilley

Photographer

Alberto Cosi

Assistant-in-chief

Auttapon Wichai Assistants

Amaraporn Putthawiboon Grit Nijhof Michele Cosi Totsaporn Homchan Ulisse Baque Wyndham Hollis Design and Graphic Layout

AC-Italian Connection Co., Ltd Published by

Italian Connection Co., Ltd 4/73 Moo Baan Nanthawan, Nimmanhemin Road 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand www.connectionitalian.com connectionitalia@yahoo.com ISBN 978-616-91075-0-7 Color Separation by Sirivatana Interprint Public Co., Ltd Printed in Thailand by Sirivatana Interprint Public Co., Ltd 14/8 Moo 12 Bangna-Trad Road Km 46, Bangpakong Chachoengsao 24130, Thailand Copyright Š 2013 Connection Italian Co., Ltd. All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the permission of the copyright holder.

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124 130 136 142 148 A Brief History of Motoring in Siam

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1947 Armstron Siddeley Hurricane

1947 Triumph 1800 Roadster

1950 Jaguar XK 120 Roadster

1952 Rolls Royce Silver Dawn

1953 CitroĂŤn fifteen light

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1954 Mercedes-Benz 220 A

1954 MG TF

1955 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL

1957 Ford Thunderbird

1958 Triumph TR3A

1959 MGA

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1971 Lamborghini Espada S2

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE

1972 Alfa Romeo GTV

Principles of CAr Restoration (in Thailand)

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1965 Ford Mustang

1972 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce

1979 Porsche 928

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

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Acknowledgments

This book would never have come about were it not for the enthusiastic and generous support of:

John Richardson

who has been always so good to me. My personal thanks to:

Robert Tilley

the writer, and now my friend, whose enthusiasm for the project never wavered.

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IIIII III I IIII I I I I III III I Special thanks for his support on providing unpublished historical photographs in the “History of Motoring in Siam” to:

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Thaveesing Kungnimitr

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Special thanks for his logistic support in Bankok to:

Sayam Sethaputra

Special thanks for his enthusiastic contribution with historical and technical research to:

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Special thanks for his photography consultancy to:

Murray White

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Mark Haywood

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Special thanks for his support and technical knowledge on car restoration to: www.lannaclassiccars.com

And above all a very special thanks to each car owner who supported me in my project and showed so much patience during the long hours, always well into the night, that I spent photographing their treasured vehicles.

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Pravut Kanchanawat

for the major contribution he has made in terms of time, connections, encouragement and, above all, a much valued friendship.

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Special thanks for making this book possible to:

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Introduction

and taking a good picture of a car is one of the most challenging tasks such a photographer can face (interestingly, jewelry is another very difficult subject for a studio lensman to tackle. Perhaps jewels and classic cars share a mystical relationship.) The alternative of photographing cars outdoors is not an ideal possibility because of such natural distractions as trees, buildings and even the sky. A studio is the ideal place, but the photographer requires a lot of space, a large and flexibly equipped area in which to deploy lights, strobes and bouncing panels. Reflections, a major problem in such big subjects, have to be overcome here, too, but they can be controlled more easily indoors. The right lenses are required to get correct proportion but no line distortion, so that these telephotos require a very extended depth, at least 15 meters, of field.

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Alberto Cosi

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Living in Thailand is beyond any doubt a plus in a venture like this. Here you might not have the very top cars, but classic car owners are more approachable and willing than in Europe or U.S. So why not: after two years of hard work, an excellent coffee table book on Thai Classic Cars? Here it is, for your approval.

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On a technical note I have to say that throughout the book the term horsepower has been adopted to denote the power of the car being described. It has been used as a general term to cover brake horsepower, horsepower, tax horsepower, etc. As a general rule we have used the figure quoted by the manufacturer, therefore the horsepower quoted for each car may not be directly comparable.

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I never got around to owning a classic car, for several reasons, but that unconsummated love for that breed of vehicle resolved itself in a desire to produce an illustrated book in their praise. There’s probably a Freudian element to this; I don’t physically own a classic car but I feel that the vehicles I capture in my camera are mine, won through the alchemical photographing process. I own it in spirit... While planning the project, an odd question troubled me: how could 20 or so cars be gathered together under one roof to be photographed? I am a studio photographer

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When talking or writing about “Classic Cars,” it’s all about feelings. How can I forget that bright early morning in May in the northern Italian town of Brescia, at the start of my career as a freelance photographer? I was there to cover the Mille Miglia “punzonatura” -- the procedure requiring a seal to be fixed to the steering wheel of cars listed to participate in the race, as confirmation of their enrolment in the event. While I was walking in the almost deserted arcades of Loggia Square, admiring all the beautiful vehicles standing there, the engine of a parked Maserati A6GCS started up, with a growling, rumbling, deafening symphony of sound that echoed through the arcade and into the square. It was magical moment, when time stood still and the perfect soundtrack for that unforgettable day. As I said, it’s all about feelings.

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Another problem was the reluctance of owners to bring their cherished cars to me to be photographed. The hindrances in the way of the project just mounted up—until the solution hit me one day like a lightning bolt. Surfing the web for new studio equipment, I came across a huge mobile studio. Eureka! This was it! If cars cannot come to me I’ll go to cars, I thought. Simple! So, in 2010, I built my own mobile studio, with a 8 by 12 meters background and a 6 by 6 meters butterfly. Every single part can be dismantled and loaded on my truck and taken wherever I want, rain willing. When I finally saw my first shooting test on a classic car I realized that I had finally taken the first actual step on my ambitious project.

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If you were born in Italy, as I was, this passion for roaring pistons was embedded in your DNA. You dreamt of being a top mechanic or professional driver just at the sound of such magic names as Ferrari, Lamborghini or Ducati... My father was true to this tradition and was more than eager to share with me his love for beautiful, sporty cars. He wasn’t well off, but he was still able to afford a 1952 Gilera 250 Sport (which I regularly “borrowed,” of course, even when only 15 years old)). He later owned a 1958 black Mercedes 190 D which proudly drove through our town and parked in the main square every Sunday morning. Sadly, all three—the two cars and my father—have now passed on.

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The “Treasure on Wheels” project came into being for several reasons, all of them summed up by a passion for cars that really roar, that smell of gasoline and are uncomfortable--cars with hoods that open to disclose the actual engine and allow you to understand how it works, and cars where electrical wiring is just needed to start the vehicle and operate its lights. Yes, cars from another planet, another era. A Classic Era.

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1 3 Foreword

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I feel honored to be invited to write the foreword for “Treasures on Wheels,” an interesting and

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valuable classical car collection book that compiles a variety of classical cars in Thailand. I also have a deep passionate interest in classical cars and, despite my busy schedule, I often lose track of time and feel overwhelmed with happiness whenever I take part in a discussion about classic cars.

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Classic cars are not merely collectors’ items. Their value is greater than that. They are the witnesses

of time and eras full of memories and valuable stories. For example, the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn 1952, that is now in my possession, used to belong to Chaophraya Ram Rakob and once served as a welcoming vehicle

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for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom when Her Majesty visited Thailand.

For this reason, classic car collections represent not merely an appreciation of the art of engineering.

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The events and stories that created the value of classic cars belong to the national heritage. Not only the

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classic cars in my possession but also those collected by other enthusiasts across Thailand carry memorable

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stories.

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For me, classic cars contain so many stories to be explored; stories that describe the civilization

of each era. Therefore, the owners of classic cars are not merely collectors but also preservers of national

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heritages. The preserved cars could be a source of engineering and cultural knowledge for our children and grandchildren, who might in the future expand such knowledge, resulting not only in a more developed society but also beneficial for Thailand’s economy and car industry.

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Lastly, I would like to thank the editorial team of “Treasures on Wheels” who gave Thai classic cars a

chance to be revealed to the public.

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President and CEO •Grand Prix International •Bangkok International Motor Show

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A Brief History of Motoring in Siam

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hen Siam’s enlightened King Chulalongkorn celebrated his 40th year on the throne in 1908 the customary parade of elephants had to step aside for an even grander spectacle—a cavalcade of motor

intricacies of driving such a revolutionary

cars. The people of Bangkok—for many

picked up some mechanical skills during a

of whom the bicycle was still a novelty—

stay in England. Plans to exhibit the historic

reportedly watched in astonishment

vehicle in the National Museum then being

as the cars of the royal “stables” passed

built in Bangkok came to nought and the car

grandly through the city, dressed up

ended its days as a pile of abandoned and

like the elaborate floats that are now the

rusting junk in a local warehouse. By 1904,

highlight of the country’s major festivals.

the number of cars imported to Siam and

Two years previously, the city had seen

still in running order had tripled—to three.

the country’s first motor car rally, a

But in the following five years the number

gathering of more than 30 vehicles, but

grew exponentially, and when registration

that was a modest affair compared to the

was introduced in 1909 there were 401

jubilee spectacle. King Chulalongkorn,

cars on Bangkok roads and a further 11 in

who

the

the provinces. Even Phuket had two. The

technological advances of the West,

motoring boom was accompanied by an

was a pioneer in the history of the

ambitious program to cope with this sudden

automobile in Siam and, later, Thailand.

surge in traffic. A 1912 guidebook lamented

His enthusiasm was readily supported

that construction work was changing the

by those of his large family who were

face of Bangkok, perhaps for ever. “The

old enough to drive. Many years later his

picturesque castellated fortifications of

nephew, Prince Birabongse Bhanubandh,

the city are going,” the author wrote. “The

became a highly successful and respected

gateways have nearly all been removed to

competitor

racing

facilitate traffic and whole sections of the

circuits. It was a royal prince who became

walls have been demolished and used as

the owner of the first motor car to be

road metal.” The guidebook painted a scene

imported to Siam. Chao Phraya Surasak

of streets “continually crowded with traffic

Montri, an army field marshal, bought it

of all kinds, thousands of jinrickshaws (sic),

from a foreigner, whose identity—like the

hundreds of horsed carriages and motor

make of the car—remains unknown. The

vehicles constantly passing to and fro. So

enthusiastically

on

embraced

international

means of transport as a self-propelled vehicle were apparently beyond the powers of the prince, for he handed the car over to his brother, Prince Phraya Anutoot, who had


arose Bangkok’s first traffic jams, accompanying accidents and familiar examples of road rage.

traffic accident death was registered. Other victims of the chaotic conditions on Bangkok’s roads

The earliest, under-powered cars had difficulty negotiating the hump-backed bridges spanning

were reported by doctors and even psychiatrists, who added the condition of “motormania” to

the Bangkok’s klongs, while the city’s newly-introduced tram service led to furious right-of-way

the medical dictionary of the time. A Bangkok mental hospital specialist defined “motormania”

squabbles. At least two cars ended up in klongs while trying to avoid a speeding tram, while the

as “a condition said to be induced by the strain of driving mechanically propelled vehicles on the

city mortuary recorded its first traffic accident death.

road.” Other motoring-related conditions reported by Bangkok doctors included “chauffeur’s wrist” and “motor driver’s spine.” In February 1908, the Bangkok Times carried a letter from

When the first cars made their appearance in Bangkok the city had less than 20 kms of tarred

a reader declaring: “The speed at which motor cars are driven day by day along the intricate

roads, and these had been built for the use of horse-drawn carriages. During Bangkok’s rainy

and crowded thoroughfares of Bangkok has often been a subject of complaint on the part of

season most of these comfortable conveyances stood most of the time idle, unable to navigate

other users of the roads…the introduction of a speed limit has become almost a necessity if the

their way through the capital’s muddy and often submerged streets. In 1863 King Chulalongkorn’s

comfort and convenience of others is to be maintained.” Even a speed limit of 8 miles per hour

predecessor stepped in to the gathering debate over the state of Bangkok’s streets and ordered

would be too high, he maintained. The same reader joined the debate over inconsiderate drivers.

the construction of a 6.5 km stretch of hard-topped road. Named New Road, it ran from the

“They invariably want to occupy the middle of the road, and only a small minority remember

palace, alongside the Chao Phraya River to wealthy neighborhoods where fine phaetons drawn

to announce their approach to dangerous corners... others again drive at a high speed with the

by thoroughbred steeds were a common sight, at least in the dry season. When it rained the only

hooter going all the time with the idea of getting the best parts of the road clear.” The letter

practical way around Bangkok was by rickshaw—or even boat. With the rapid rise in the number

concluded: “The introduction of proper rules of the road for all classes of vehicular traffic and the

of cars cruising the few paved roads of Bangkok came the city’s first traffic jams and reckless

imposition of a stringent speed limit on certain parts of the town would do much to remove an

drivers. “Many of the motorists appear to be developing the characteristic vices of the road hog,”

existing danger and would add greatly to the general feeling of safety.”

lamented one reader of the Bangkok Times in a letter to the editor in 1905, the year the city’s first

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1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

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1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A 1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

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1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A 1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

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1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A 1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

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1931 Cadillac 370-A

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1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A

1931 Cadillac 370-A


17


A

utomobiles of the Cadillac V series are truly and quite literally majestic vehicles. Only

acquired during the Prohibition Era was far from the minds of its creator, the engineer, inventor

two are to be found in Thailand—and one of those, a V-16 that once belonged to King

and entrepreneur Henry Leland, when he founded the Cadillac company in Detroit in 1902. He

Rama 7, is the property of his Majesty the King. The other (pictured here), a V-12, is

named the car after an illustrious ancestor, the French explorer and adventurer Antoine Laumet

owned by a retired Chiang Mai Thai industrialist and can be seen on fine days bowling along the

de la Mothe, ‘sieur de Cadillac, who founded Detroit in 1701. General Motors had successfully

highways surrounding the city. Although early Cadillac advertising described the car as an “All

launched the Buick when it bought the Cadillac company in 1909 and it had high hopes for this

Weather Phaeton,” the owner of this 1931 V12 takes to the road only on “dry days,” and he sticks

new generation of luxury automobiles. Two events that were to change the world also shook the

to the high roads--“It’s much too big a car to bring into the city.”

luxury car market to its foundations. The first of these, the outbreak of World War II in 1914, was followed by the 1929 “Great Depression,” which had the United States and much of the world in

In their heyday, however, the big Cadillacs of the early 1930s could be seen cruising the city

its grip when the first of the Cadillac V-12s, the 370A, made its appearance in 1930.

streets of the United States and have been immortalized in many Hollywood movies. Producers

18

and scriptwriters would have us believe that the big, convertible Cadillacs were the car of choice

Millions of Americans had been impoverished by the economic depression, but there were still

of Prohibition Era mobsters like Al Capone. They were more likely, however, to belong to wealthy

some wealthy customers for whom the US $3,795 Cadillac V-12 price tag was no deterrent.

Americans who had made their money on the Stock Exchange; when Wall Street crashed in

The cost of the 370A V-12 and the four 370 (BCDE) series cars that followed it was nearly nine

1929 demand for the big Cadillacs also plummeted. The mobster image that Cadillacs unfairly

times the price of the revolutionary “people’s car,” the Model T introduced by Henry Ford’s Ford


Motor Company in 1908. Sales of the

five people with ease, and the trunk was

big Cadillacs declined over the years,

spacious enough to stow away enough

however, and only 10,903 had been built

gear for a Great Gatsby style of weekend

by the time production stopped in 1937,

partying. Early advertising declared

but the short-lived Cadillacs left a lasting

“This car has California appeal,” and

legacy, in precision engineering, comfort

the Chiang Mai V-12 did, in fact, begin

and styling. The V-12 had two parallel

life in the Sunshine State. But its owner

banks of six cylinders, set at an angle of

found it—through the mediation of an

45 degrees, rather than the optimal 60

American friend—in Texas and shipped

degrees, with a total capacity of 6 litres

it to Thailand in 1992. “I first saw the

and providing 135 horsepower at 3,400

Cadillac V-12 pictured in a book, and I

rpm. Cadillac added even more powerful

loved it right away,” he says. “I thought

models to its catalogue, pushing engine

that if I had to choose the last car of

capacity to new heights with a V-16

my life it should be the most luxurious

version capable of top speeds close to

I would ever own.” It’s essentially

100 mph (160 km/h), but they never

the same car that left the Cadillac

exceeded the popularity of the V-12.

workshops in 1931, although its owner

The big Cadillacs also introduced new

has replaced the original radiator cap

standards of comfort, with hydraulically

ornament, a graceful crane in flight,

damped

suspension,

with a traditional “Goddess” figure—a

synchromesh transmission, and servo

most suitable emblem for such a divine

assisted brakes. They accommodated

vehicle.

leaf

spring


21


1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

22

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite 1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite 1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite 1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite 1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite 1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite

1937 Riley Lynx Sprite


23


V

ery few cars can be described as “historic” as well as “classic”—but this English roadster is one of that elite number. It was presented by Siam’s Queen Rambhai Barni to her older brother Air Commander HSH Prince

Visishtha Svastiraksha Svastivatana as a wedding present, and since the Queen and her husband, King Prajadhipok, were living in England a British car seemed to be the most appropriate present. King Prajadhipok, Rama VII, Siam’s last absolute monarch, relinquished power during a constitutional crisis sparked by violent political upheavals in 1932. The following year, the royal couple left Siam for England, where the King was due to have an eye operation. Following his abdication in 1935, the King and his family decided to make their home in England, where he died in 1941. It isn’t sure if the car was shipped to Thailand before or after World War II. It’s possible that Queen Rambhai Barni arranged for the car to be shipped to Thailand when she returned to her home country in 1949. The car was lodged with the Air Commander, who officially registered it in 1963. It remained at his Bangkok residence for nearly 30 years before being sold to Thailand’s former Air Chief Marshal. Later on it featured in a further colorful chapter of classic car history when the present Thai owner acquired it in exchange for a valuable oil painting. The car needed to be repainted and to undergo a major mechanical overhaul. The present owner scrupulously purchased all the manuals and spare parts lists he could find on the British market in order to complete the task of restoration properly. The result is a stunning recreation of this piece of Thai history.


The car’s distinctive squared-off hood hides a 1.5 litre, four inline cylinder engine developing 61

then, despite William Riley’s continued skepticism, Riley were conducting valuable pioneering

horsepower at 5,500 rpm and with an ex-works top speed of nearly 90 mph (140 km/h). In the

work, including the development of mechanically operated inlet engine valves.

original tests, the car could reach 50 mph (80 km/h) in 13 seconds. Riley won an early reputation

26

for the reliability and performance of its engines, an ironic achievement for a company whose

In 1913, Riley began mass production of a model bearing the works number 17/30, which

founder, William Riley, preferred bicycles to the new-fangled motorized contraptions on four

premiered at that year’s London Motor Show. The 17/30 was the first Riley to carry the company’s

wheels. Riley’s first business venture into the burgeoning world of faster transport was the Riley

familiar “blue diamond” badge, accompanied by the motto: “As old as the industry, as modern

Cycle Co. Ltd., which he founded in 1896. He and his eldest son, Percy, disagreed fundamentally

as the hour.” Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Riley produced a bewildering variety of models,

on the future of wheeled transport, even when the 16-year-old scion built his own car to illustrate

from two-seater roadsters such as the Sprite to eight-cylinder luxury saloons. In the Le Mans

its enormous advantages over the two-wheeled bicycle. In 1902, Percy persuaded his two brothers

endurance event of 1935, Riley cars came fourth and seventh. The Lynx Sprite was produced

and their mother to circumvent their father’s opposition and invest in an engine-building project.

from 1936-38. Very few survive today and they fetch big prices at auction; a record 77,000 pounds

One year later, the Riley Engine Company was born. The company’s first engines were built for

sterling was paid for an immaculate Sprite in 2009. It went for a “King’s ransom,” as they say,

motorcycles, but in 1905 it powered Riley’s first car, a prototype called the Vee-Twin Tourer. By

appropriately in this case, in Merry Old England.


1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120 1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120 1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar 1950 Jaguar XK 120 XK 120

40

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120

1950 Jaguar XK 120


41


E

ven classic cars sometimes have to suffer in the interests of art—and entertainment. This 1950 Jaguar XK 120 starred briefly in the successful and award-winning 1978 movie “The Deer Hunter.” However, when the film company handed the car back to its owner, a Frenchman living in Bangkok, a rear wheel cover was missing. Awkward negotiations followed, but eventually the car was restored as it was when it disembarked on Bangkok’s docks in September 1950, just one month after his rolling out from Jaguar’s Coventry factory. The frenchman bought this spectacular automobile from a chinese businessman who ordered it to Assia Bangkok car dealer. Later on, a close Thai friend unsuccessfully pressed the French owner to sell him the car, but was later dismayed to learn that another Thai enthusiast had succeeded where he had failed. This new owner kept the car in his garage but had failed to keep up with regular maintenance, so that when in turn the present owner, also a Thai collector, bought it few years ago, the car was still running but in need of an extensive restoration. You can count on the fingers of one hand cars that have caused a true sensation at launch. The E Type Jaguar and Ford Mustang come immediately to mind, but in its day the Jaguar XK 120 sent the same shockwaves of excitement through the motoring world. It was launched in 1948, the first of the new post-war Jaguar models, and was the talk of the London Motor Show that year. Jaguar was founded by William Lyons in 1922, as the Swallow Sidecar Company. By 1935, the company was producing automobiles with a strong sporting bias, such as its flagship SS 90 and SS 100. The abbreviation SS acquired a black reputation in World War II, and when Nazi Germany was defeated and the crimes of the SS came to light, the car’s name was changed to Jaguar. The company’s factory was located in the Midlands city of Coventry, which was a prime target for German bombers, and Lyons and his engineering team were frequently required carry out firefighting duties and during breaks in their nightly watch they drew up the preliminary designs for the XK 120 and its truly iconic twin overhead camshaft 3.4 liter engine. The sports car was conceived as a showcase to demonstrate the potential of this remarkably advanced new engine. Initially the cars were hand built with aluminum bodies on ash frames. This was time-consuming and slow, and only 242 cars were produced between the car’s launch in 1948 and early 1950. Demand for the car was so overwhelming that manufacturing was switched to mass production lines, and pressed steel body panels replaced aluminum, except for the boot, bonnet and doors, which remained in the lighter metal to reduce weight. The early hand-built versions command a significant price premium over their steel-bodied counterparts at auction today. Three different versions of the car were produced. It was launched in the roadster version only, then in 1951 a

42


fixed head coupe was introduced, followed in 1953 by a drop head coupe, which had a more substantial hood than the roadster, and the luxury of wind-up windows. Lyons had envisaged a production run of 200 cars, but when the XK 120 was superseded by the XK 140, more than 12,000 examples had been sold. The car was badged 120 because that was its supposed top speed, but when The Motor magazine road-tested the car in the year following its launch it reached a speed of just under 125 mph (200 km/h), and a 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) time of 10 seconds. After removing the hood, fitting tonneau covers and a sports windscreen, the car achieved 136.6 mph (220 km/h), becoming the fastest production car in the world and proving it had the performance to match its stunning looks. All this for the rather modest price of 1,263 pounds sterling. The car also shattered many endurance records, being the first production car to average over 100 mph (160 km/h) in 24 hours, and later repeating the same feat over seven days and nights, covering a total distance of 16,852 miles. The car’s performance on the track was no less impressive. Its first victory came in 1949, when it took first and second places in the Daily Express race at Silverstone. A third Jaguar driven in that race by Thai Prince B. Bira failed to finish when his car spun off the track with a puncture. Victories followed in consecutive years at the Alpine Rally, while Jaguar performances were so impressive at the 1950 Le Mans race that Lyons developed cars specifically for the race (the C and D types) which went on to dominate the event, winning it in 1951, 1953, 1955 and 1957. Such was the seductive glamour of the car that the very first XK 120 was purchased by the top box office star of the day, Clarke Gable. Hollywood stars Tyrone Power and Jane Mansfield were quick to follow—and Jaguars soon 44

became a regular sight on Hollywood Boulevard as well as on the big screen.


45


1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

58

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I


59


O

nly about 200 of the 1,582 Sunbeam Alpines manufactured in the two years following

on the cinema screen, a symbol of playboy affluence and glamor. A sapphire blue model shared

its launch in 1953 are thought to have survived, and this beautiful Chiang Mai example

star billing with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock movie “To Catch a

is one of them. Even this survivor might have suffered the fate of so many of its kind if

Thief,” racing through the streets and corniches of Monte Carlo as Grant crept along the rooftops

it hadn’t been found by its present British owner three years ago.

above. Sunbeam was by then no new name to Monte Carlo—the famous British racing car driver Stirling Moss took second place at the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally in a Sunbeam-Talbot 90. The

“I bought it from a French guy in Bangkok a few years ago and it wasn’t in very good condition,”

following year, the charismatic British woman driver Sheila van Damm—owner of London’s most

he said, running his hands over the scarred paintwork waiting for the respray that would restore

celebrated vaudeville theatre, the Windmill—drove a Sunbeam-Talbot 90 to victory in the Alpine

the car’s surface to the ivory patina that made the Alpine so distinctive on the road. Technicians

Rally, winning the Coupe des Dames, the world’s highest accolade for women drivers. Sterling

meanwhile prepared to remove the Toyota interloper that had previously powered the car and

Moss finished sixth in the same rally, also driving a Sunbeam-Talbot 90.

replace it with an original Talbot-Sunbeam 90 engine, an inline four cylinder 2.3 litre unit the

60

owner found, together with an original gear box, on the Internet. This is the engine type that

Ironically, the name Sunbeam-Talbot had fallen into disrepute in the 1930s when the parent

powered several Sunbeams to rally success, and the 2.3 litre version under the Alpine’s hood gave

company teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. The Rootes Group bought the marques in 1935, but

the car a 95 mph (150 km/h) top speed and 80 horsepower at 4,200 rpm. The neglect suffered

World War 11 interrupted production. Rootes had already acquired Hillman, Humber and Singer,

by so many of those early Sunbeam Alpines was an undeserved fate for a car that achieved fame

three solidly bourgeois British marques, and Sunbeam-Talbot was chosen to represent the group’s


“sporting” image. The brand name was streamlined to simply Sunbeam and the addition of “Alpine” gave the new model a dash of élan to match its top speed of 95 mph (150 km/h). The Sunbeam Alpine didn’t disappoint, and apart from success in the French Alps and Monte Carlo the glamorous little car won many honors and admirers on the rally circuit. This car’s meteoric rise to prominence on the rally circuit contrasted dramatically with its modest beginnings in the sedate English south coast resort of Bournemouth, where a local dealer, George Hartwell, oversaw the development of a one-off drophead rally car. There were early problems with the chassis construction and gearbox ratios were also changed, with the integration of an overdrive unit as standard in 1954. More than half the cars sold in the two years of production were exported to the United States and Canada. Only 445 found buyers at home—and very few of those are to be seen on Britain’s roads. All the cars were hand built by a prestigious London company, Thrupp & Maberly, which made its name by constructing horsedrawn carriages in the late 19th century. It was one of the first firms to recognize the inevitability of replacing horse-drawn vehicles with mechanically driven ones. The company experimented with electrically-powered cars and in 1896 it built one for the Queen of Spain. During World War I it concentrated on building staff cars for the British Army. It was a long, rough road from the front lines of war to the glamorous rally circuits of Europe, but Sunbeam-Talbot was well up to the challenge— the Sunbeam Alpine now parked in a Chiang Mai workshop yard is proof of that.

62


1963 Chevrolet Corvette 1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

100

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette 1963 Chevrolet Corvette

Chevrolet Corvette 1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette 1963 Chevrolet Corvette 1963 Chevrolet Corvette 1963 1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette

1963 Chevrolet Corvette


101


A

Sunday ritual for the children of the Thai owner of this 1963 Chevrolet Corvette is to help wash and polish it. As a reward, they’re taken for a spin, either in the Chevy or another of his collection of more than 30 classic cars. The young family man says: “This way our children can absorb my passion and learn about the heritage behind the cars. My wife joins in, as well. She’s also an enthusiast—her father has about 30 classic cars, too.” The Bangkok classic car collector absorbed his own passion for old-timers in turn from his father, from whom he acquired the Chevrolet Corvette that is now a prized possession. “It’s a piece of art that you can drive and it gives me joy to take care of it,” he says. “I brought it to life from scratch, fixing it up and repainting it.”

102

The car has its original 5.4 liter 250 horsepower V8 engine mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. Three other engine options were available boosting power to a maximum of 360 horsepower, yielding a top speed of 147 mph (235 km/h) 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) was reached between 6 and

7 seconds depending on the engine variant and gear box fitted. It was the distinctive sports car lines of the Corvette which first caught the owner’s eye when he visited a classic car show in St Louis, where he was studying at the local university. The campus wasn’t far from the GM plant where the Sting Ray was assembled. “What makes it so unusual is the design based on the wings of a stingray while the lightweight fiberglass body gives it that racing car feel.” General Motors designer Bill Mitchell—who served with the company for 42 years—is credited with the idea of a tapered, double-finned rear for the Corvette, a shape inspired by a fishing trip encounter with a sting ray. The new GM coupe was officially named after a small, lightly-armed warship prized for its maneuverability. But the name Sting Ray stuck and has survived through six generation of the Corvette. A new, seventh generation, or C7 model was due to be unveiled in 2011 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of General Motors, but uncertain economic times have delayed the launch which is now tentatively planned for 2013. The 1963 Corvette


Sting Ray ushered in the second generation of the model. Controversially, Mitchell gave the coupe a split rear window and roofline centre crease in a clear styling nod to another sporting classic, the Bugatti Type 57 SC. Distinctive, purely decorative vents adorned the hood. After fierce internal debate these two innovations were dropped from post-1963 models, contributing to the special appeal and enhanced value of that year’s C2 cars. A third important innovation, independent rear suspension, delivered a more sure-footed hold on the road and was a vast improvement over its predecessor. The April 1963 edition of Car and Driver enthused “At long last America has a formidable weapon to challenge Europe’s fastest grand touring cars on their home ground.” Their only real criticism was the car’s all round drum brakes, instead of the more efficient disc brakes which were becoming standard equipment on European sports cars. The arrival of the Sting Ray in 1963 totally eclipsed the success of the Corvette C1 car launched in 1953. Sales leapt 50 percent, to top 21,000 in the first year, equally divided between the coupe model and the convertible version with optional lift-off hardtop. Slightly over 115,000 C2 Sting Rays were sold before production ended in 1967 and the C3 car made its appearance. For many enthusiasts the 1963 Sting Ray with its boat-tail roofline and split rear window is acknowledged as one of the most desirable of all Corvettes, and who can argue with that?


1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

142

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

1981 DeLorean DMC-12


143


A

merican movie-maker Stephen Spielberg gave star billing to the DeLorean DMC-12 in his huge 1985 success, “Back to the Future,” and the five cars that exist in Thailand still bask in the spotlight. This 1981 DeLorean is one of them—and a star of the Bangkok Thai owner’s collection of 35 classic cars. Together, they once turned heads as he took the wheel on spins down the Pacific Coast Highway in California. “I was studying in the 1980s when I saw my first DeLorean, on the cinema screen,” he said. “I fell in love with the car and decided I just had to own one.” The DeLorean featured in “Back to the Future” was a fictitious time-machine and rapidly became a 1980s icon, celebrated in songs, further film scripts and a full range of fan accessories, from baseball caps and tee-shirts to scaled-down models of the car. “I was just a student in California, reading for an MBA,” recalled the owner. “But I saved up enough money to begin looking for one.” By 1989, the young student had saved enough to buy this DeLorean from a Californian doctor. “For some reason, DeLoreans are favored by doctors. A doctor was one of the first people to import one into Thailand.” By now a “Master of Business Administration,” the young enthusiast returned with his DeLorean to Thailand in 1994. “It was in fine condition, needing just a bit of work here and there. It’s still as good as new and requires just regular maintenance.” The DeLorean story itself is worthy of a Hollywood film script, beginning with the arrival in depression-era America of a Romanian immigrant and his Austrian wife. They had a son, named John Zachary DeLorean, who followed his father into the automobile industry, gaining ever more experience in jobs with Chrysler, Packard and, finally, General Motors. After a stellar career, the 48 year old DeLorean inexplicably resigned from General Motors in 1973 and established his own firm, the DeLorean Motor Company, where he developed a two-seater prototype sports car, which he named the DeLorean Safety Vehicle, the DLS. This car was the basis for the DMC-12. A shrewd businessman, and even better salesman, DeLorean persuaded the British government to grant his company 100 million pounds sterling to open a factory in Northern Ireland to manufacture his prototype sports car. Production started in early 1981 and before the end of the year the factory was employing more than 2,000 workers. The factory produced just one model, the DeLorean DMC-12, a hybrid of British, Italian and French design and components. The car was built on a

144


145


double Y frame chassis designed by Lotus, and derived from their Esprit sports car. The DMC-12 sported some rather exotic refinements such as “gull wing” doors, which swing open vertically, and brushed stainless steel bodywork. It was powered by a rear-mounted V-6 Renault designed engine developing 150 horsepower for the European spec car, and 130 horsepower for the emission controlled US model. The power plant was driven through a choice of a three-speed automatic, or five-speed manual gearbox. The performance of the car was somewhat disappointing with a 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) time of 8.8 sec for the 150 horsepower car and 10.5 sec for the US version. This was not the kind of performance potential sports car customers expected, and sales levels suffered as a result, despite its competitive pricing level. With sales failing to meet forecast levels, the DeLorean company soon ran into financial difficulty and put its affairs into pre-bankruptcy receivership in February 1982. The Northern Ireland assembly line continued to run for most of that year,

producing about 9,000 cars before operations were shut down for good in November 1982. It wasn’t the end of the DeLorean story, however. At the height of the company’s problems in 1982, DeLorean was arrested by British police on drugs-trafficking charges. It was alleged that a cashstrapped DeLorean had sought to avoid looming bankruptcy by dealing in narcotics. He was caught in a FBI “sting”: operation, but was acquitted after the judge ruled he had been illegally “entrapped.” He didn’t escape bankruptcy, however, and when he died in 2005 at the age of 80 he was a broken man, stripped both of his fortune and reputation. A number of books have been written on DeLorean and his ill-fated automobile venture, adding to the mystique—and the value—of the 6,500 DeLorean DMC-12s believed to be still on the road. Although they all have an iconic, and somewhat infamous place in the world of classic cars, DeLorean made doubly sure the sleek silhouette of his famous car would live on for ever by having the image of a DeLorean DMC-12 carved on the tombstone above his grave.


148


Appendix

Principles of Car Restoration (in Thailand)

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T

he owner of a classic car possesses not just a piece of sophisticated technology but an obligation to keep it in good shape and perhaps to restore it to its original, pristine condition. It is a difficult challenge, involving not only sentiment and hard cash, but also the awareness that Thailand has very few specialist garages able to carry out the necessary work seriously and competently. The aim of this section, therefore, is to explore the issue thoroughly and identify the considerations and actions to ponder before embarking on restoration. Since the value of many classic cars can easily exceed one million baht it’s clearly advisable to follow such a procedure before purchasing one. To start with, there are some basic considerations that need to be pondered: 1– The availability of parts, in Thailand and worldwide. Some cars are fabulous when finished but parts might be very scarce and often have to be fabricated “in house.” 2– Is this going to be an “emotional” restoration of a car you already own or one you have always wanted to possess? 3– Are you buying a car in order to restore and resell it or for your own personal use? 4– What is the current value of the car you want to buy? What will be the total cost of restoration? What will be the car’s value after restoration? 5– How long do you expect the restoration to take? 6– Do you have sufficient money for restoration and a contingency fund when the costs involved inevitably go over budget? 7– Will you direct the restoration yourself, doing some of the work and contracting out some of the tasks, or do you intend employing a professional car restoration organization? 8– Are you restoring the car for use in Thailand or to export it after restoration? 9– Has the car irrefutable, “proper” Thai registration? 10– Do you favor originality in your restoration or modification? 11– Have you checked the qualifications and experience of sub-contractors and professional restorers? The answers to all these questions will help you determine what kind of restoration your chosen car will undergo. A complete picture of the work involved cannot, of course, be obtained without a detailed technical inspection. In some cases this may prove disheartening, but it’s fundamental in determining the viability of the car for restoration and also to calculate the extent of the work required. It’s self-evident that a serious technical inspection takes a long time and may involve several on-site viewings to determine exactly what has to be done. Here are some tips:

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12– Ask for the body/chassis/vehicle identification number and the engine number of the vehicle

and check on the Internet for authenticity, including original color codes. 13– Ask a professional, preferably with mechanical and bodywork experience, to inspect the car with you. 14– Take parts and workshop manuals with you, with photographs that you can use to compare with your chosen car and check what is missing, what is authentic and what has been modified. 15– Take a magnet with you; most classic cars in Thailand have received large amounts of body filler and a magnet can show you where it has been used. 16– Make sure the inspection site has a hydraulic lift so you can inspect the underside of the car;


for distances between frame members. Look for signs of accident damage, crumpled areas, rusty and collapsed jacking points and telltale overspray. 23– Lift the car up and inspect for rust and signs of corrosion. Thailand’s humid, tropical climate means that all car restoration projects need substantial bodywork due to rust, especially on the underside. 24– Poke around with a screwdriver to search for weak and rusty areas, especially floor panels and wheel arches.

that area will usually need a lot more restoration work than the topside, whether body or mechanical work. 17– Take a flash light or torch to help your inspection. 18– Ask to view records of past repair work. 19– Take a camera, and photograph all areas of the car. Even if the photos aren’t high quality they act as an aide memoir when stripping, ordering parts and rebuilding. 20– Have a note book with you and write everything you see down and back up with photos. 21– Look at the general form of the car first. Does it “look right?” Measure gaps in body panels. 22– Measure between wheel tracks front to back and diagonally. Most cars have a specification

25– Inspect underside mechanicals such as suspension, steering, brakes, drive shafts, gaiters. Look for signs of oil, fuel and coolant leaks from the engine, gearbox, differential, brakes, hoses, radiator and fuel systems. Use a pry bar to check for play in bearings and bushes, gearbox and engine mounts. 26– Check for loose wires, connectors, and hanging items that should normally be attached. 27– Inspect the exhaust system for holes, cracks, leaks and perished rubber hangers. 28– Check wheels for play and bearing wear. 29– Return car to the ground and initiate a top side body inspection, giving attention to paint, filler and rust. 30– Open all doors, boot and bonnet lids and inspect for corrosion, spring and hinge wear. Lift doors up and down and note the amount of play. 31– Check the car’s interior, especially floors, boot floor and engine compartment for rust and local metal work “butchering.” Most cars of any age have received some kind of “local modification.” 32– Check all cockpit controls, electrical and mechanical, and note what is working and what is not. Is the air conditioning functioning, is there a heater, are gauges working, what’s missing? What does not work? What does work? Note all this down and take as many photos as you can. 33– Inspect the car’s interior, seats, carpets, dash, plastics, roof lining and wiring. 34– Inspect all rubber seals inside and out: they do not last long in sub-tropical and tropical climates. 35– The engine compartment is most important. Check leaks, integrity of hoses, modifications. 36– Check all fluids: are they clean or dirty? Any records of fluid changes? Look for oil in coolant and coolant in oil. Check fuses: are there any signs of burning in or around the fuse box? 37– Any signs of burning at electrical connections and along the wiring loom? Check mechanical connections such as clutch, brakes, throttle cables and linkages. Note engine, gearbox and chassis numbers and compare them with documents. Inspect wiring, including ignition and starting systems. 38– Start the vehicle (if it will start) and listen and then listen again, using a stethoscope if possible. Listen for unusual noises, metal to metal, vacuum leaks, hisses, clunks and clonks. 39– Check for leaks again and see if the cooling system is pressurizing. Check oil pressure when

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Treasures on Wheels, Great Classic Cars in Thailand  
Treasures on Wheels, Great Classic Cars in Thailand  

This illustrated publication is the creation of Italian professional photographer Alberto Cosi. The purpose of this magnificent book is to s...

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