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Teaming up: Puff, Bron and Project Shop
Project Shop’s involvement in the Puff the Magic Wagon story all started at Race Retro in 2016. Bron Burrell, one of the original three female drivers was introduced to us through fellow enthusiast and Project Shop customer David Scothorn. David had recently bought a Land Crab known as the Beauty Box. This car had also competed, and finished as the top female entrant in that most challenging event – The 1970 Daily Mirror World Cup Rally.
David, Dave Richards and Project Shop were planning on preparing the Beauty Box for that years Terre di Canossa. This gruelling event passes through some of the most historically important cities in Northern Italy from Modena through, Reggio to Emilia, Parma and Piacenza. The experience made sure that the classic rally bug bit hard and we were very excited to find out the Bron had purchased Puff and wanted us to restore her!
With the deal done Bron arranged to take delivery of Puff the the British Leyland event at Gaydon in July 2016. Puff had been a display car since her restoration in 1997 and whilst she had a current MOT was far from roadworthy. The decision was made to transport Puff back to her new home at Project Shop HQ.
Restoring a 1970 World Cup Rally Car
It has to be said. If you are looking to scratch build a rally car then an Austin Maxi would not be a choice anyone would voluntarily make! You also wouldn’t start with a car with so much history. The way the Maxi was built, for a one off endurance event 46 years before, does not lend it to being the most competitive car in the modern rally field.
For example, Puff is actually not that strong or fast in comparison to recently built standards. She does not have a full welded in roll cage, there was little in the way of chassis strengthening and next to no engine upgrades. So we had a problem. How do we prepare Puff for a modern classic rally without diluting what she is? The last road worthy 1970 World Rally Maxi.
What we started with
We started the project in the same way as every other: A day long inspection. The idea is to systematically check through the vehicle, decide what is good enough and what is not. The list is exhaustive and aims to give us the last word in the vehicles health and therefore what will be required during the build.
The good news was:
- The body work was in good cosmetic condition
- The engine and gearbox were strong and did not require rebuilding
- 99% of all her period features remained intact from the bespoke dash through to the roof nets used to keep disposable knickers in during the rally! The mind boggles!
The not so good news was that almost anything that could perish or seize solid had:
- The distributor was caked in grime and would not advance or retard
- The rest of the ignition system required replacing
- The brakes were totally shot
- The fuel system had disintegrated
- The shock absorbers leaked
- The hydrolastic suspension didn’t hold pressure
- Wheel bearings had too much play
- All the rubber suspension bushes had perished
- The steering rack leaked
- Tin worm had eaten into the sills and floor pan.
The above is far from a complete list and had Puff been any other Maxi we would have laid her to rest right there. But she isn’t any other Maxi and so began our whirl-wind adventure with the force of nature that is Bron Burrell and Puff the Magic Wagon.
Restore her to original spec as possible
With all the information at hand Bron and Project Shop made the decision that Puff was a piece of history first and an endurance rally car second. We set about sourcing as many OEM parts as possible with help from marque specialist AGM Spares in Lincoln.
We stripped the poor little Maxi down to just a shell sub-frames, dashboard, engine and gearbox.
- The wheels were stripped and sent for refurbishment
- Ancillaries such as starter motor, fuel pumps and alternator were stripped, lubricated and rebuilt
- The ignition system was over hauled
- Suspension components replaced (Local company Spax building a custom set of shock absorbers
- The body was sent to Retro Works who cut out all the rust, fitting new outer sills and fabricating new floor panels
- A new aluminium fuel tank was fabricated and mounted in the boot
- Drive shafts were stripped and rebuilt with new universal joints and bearings
- The brakes were stripped, lubricated, new seals fitted and rebuilt
- The steering rack was rebuilt with new seals
- The on board hydrolastic pump was fitted with new seals
- New fuel and brake pipes were fitted
- The engine had a top end rebuilt, to make sure the gaskets were fresh and we could inspect the bores
The list just went on and on. Five months and countless skinned knuckles later we were ready for a few weeks shake down before Puff headed off on her first adventure. Hero’s Three Legs of Mann.