How does a business that fixes classic cars get to work on some of the most high-profile Historics? The story of how the Project Shop became involved with Puff involves bare-faced cheek, hard work and perseverance.

Race Retro 2016

The cheek comes about because Project Shop’s Dave drove to Race Retro in 2016 with David Scothorn. Now David owns the Beauty Box, the Morris 1800 that came 18th on the 1970 Daily Mirror World Cup Rally. Arriving at the venue, the Group B cars were queueing to get into Parc Ferme prior to their displays on the special stage at the event.

So Dave said to David “let’s just queue up with the other rally cars, and park up with them”. And guess what? The Beauty Box was waved into Parc Ferme with nary a glance from the hi-viz clad marshalls.

Meeting Tina and Bron

While there, Bron Burrell and Tina Kerridge were visiting the show and grabbed a sit in the Beauty Box. David knew the then owner of Puff the Maxi, Trevor, and put Bron back in touch with him. Bron had seen the car on show during 2015, and some behind the scenes negotiation occurred, resulting in Bron buying the car during the summer 2016.

Trevor delivered the car to Gaydon for a rally day meeting, with lots of endurance rally cars on show. Project Shop collected the Maxi from Gaydon after Bron had bought it. So what state was the car in? It was MoT’d and taxed, and you could start the engine and drive the car.

The hard work begins

But to create a car that is truly ‘turn-key reliable’ ┬áit’s here that the hard work and perseverance starts. Now if you need to renovate a Ford Escort, or Porsche 911 for rallying, then there are a variety of suppliers selling everything you might need. But with a 1969 Austin Maxi, even getting hold of the parts is difficult.

Project Shop’s first task, once the car had landed back at the workshop, was to assess every system on the car, producing a report to Bron that identified the condition of components. From that report, Project Shop has then worked diligently through the car, repairing, replacing, lubricating and generally fettling everything to ensure Puff the Magic Wagon is totally ready for any event.

Renovating and replacing

Just take the wheels, for example. Puff is still fitted with its original magnesium Minilites, used on the Daily Mirror 1970 World Cup Rally. Yet old magnesium wheels can be a liability. So after checking with Minilite, we discovered that repro alloy Minilites to fit a Maxi aren’t available in the correct size and offset. So rather than replace with wheels that would look wrong, Project Shop approached Pristine Alloy Wheels in Milton Keynes to renovate the originals.

Because they’re magnesium, the normal methods of removing old paint cannot be used. No shot blasting or high-acidic paint strippers could be allowed on these precious originals. So removing the old paint with dilute paint stripper and very little agitation took nearly three weeks! After the paint was gone, the wheels were then sent to be crack tested, to ensure they would be safe for Bron to use on Historic Rallies. Once they had passed, Pristine Wheels had them back to renew them to the original finish as per the car’s heritage photographs from its time driving to Mexico.

It was the same with the brakes. Bron reckoned the pedal was ‘hard’ and there was very little stopping power. That tells us in the workshop that the hydraulic components are partially seized and lacking in pad clamping pressure on discs or pushing pressure on rear brake shoes within the drum.

Built to survive historic rallying

Now it is possible to free off calipers and renew seals and rebuild rear wheel cylinders. But with Bron’s plans for Puff for 2017 – a full programme of entries on Historics – we had to go the extra mile to ensure that all the brake components were going to survive. Brake pads and shoes were sourced new. So were brake discs and drums. Then we also found new brake calipers for the front, and installed new rear wheel cylinders with new shoe fitting kit. We replaced the brake flexis, and the metal brake pipes throughout the car, then rebuilt the master cylinder. After setting up the rear brake shoe-to-drum clearance and bleeding through, we had perfect, all-new brakes on Puff.

In use, this means that the pedal works properly and feels good: plus you can lock up the wheels if you push too hard on the anchors. With all the parts used being new, too, the Maxi will have the best-possible brakes for the longest possible time. Our job as a workshop going forward will be to replace the brake fluid after each event, to ensure that the brakes remain perfect.

Another example is the fuel system: the car was plagued with fuelling issues owing to the persistence of previous owners in trying to use the original, 30 gallon aircraft ‘bag tank’ fuel tank. Yet the foam it contained had broken up, and was constantly being sucked through the fuel lines, blocking the carburettors. So Project Shop commissioned a new aluminium race tank of 12 gallons, the standard Maxi size. Once fitted, the fuel system hasn’t given a further problem.

Every system on the car received this sort of attention to detail. Because Project Shop only does high-quality work, designed to achieve ultimate reliability, Bron can be satisfied that Puff stands the best chance to compete with honour in the world of Historic Rallying.

Thanks to

Zane, Billy, John, JJ, Matt & Iwan, the Project Shop crew plus Ernie and other parts suppliers from the Austin Maxi Owner’s Club

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