Every specimen we’re asked to clean is someone’s pride and joy. Any vehicle or component that comes through our doors is a new challenge to be relished. And as motoring enthusiasts ourselves – as cheesy as it may sound – every project is special.
However there are a few projects that stand out to us as “once in a lifetime” experiences. Vehicles that we wouldn’t have come across as humble enthusiasts – let alone had the chance to work on!
So let’s take a look at 6 rare and unusual specimens that we’ve had the pleasure of working on over the years.
Datsun Skyline GT-R “Hakosuka”
This is a classic Japanese import, renowned for its bold lines and square shape; so much so that it was known colloquially in Japan as the “Hakosuka” – “hako” means box in Japanese, and “suka” is a shortening of “Skyline”. The car’s owner, Richard, has a particular passion for Datsuns and had always wanted to restore a Hakosuka Skyline.
Richard imported the car himself from Japan, but unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of information available about this specific car’s history. After an extended stay at a friend’s fabrication shop, it was decided that a full strip-down and restoration would be the best way forward – and that’s where SBL came in! After positive recommendations from friends and seeing us a few times on TV, Richard decided that we were the right blast cleaners for the job.
We completely cleaned the vehicle’s shell using crushed glass on the hardier parts of the bodywork and soda on the more delicate roof and panels. Our hard work left the vehicle ready to restore from scratch and Richard was very pleased with the outcome.
Gilbern Invader Mk III
Welsh car manufacturer Gilbern was unfortunately rather short-lived, making any of their vehicles a rare treat to see out in the wild. This particular vehicle’s owner needed the complete shell, chassis, and panels stripping in order to repaint and restore the vehicle to its former glory.
We used soda to clean the body and panels because they’re made from fibreglass – a more abrasive media could have removed the protective gel coating that is present on fibreglass. The chassis however was made of steel so we were able to use crushed glass blasting to provide a tougher clean.
Selecting the correct blast media for a job is essential, but it’s absolutely critical for jobs like this one. There were only around 600 Gilbern Invader Mk IIIs made in the early 1970s, so seeing one out and about nowadays is incredibly unusual. Therefore, taking one out of circulation due to a dodgy blast clean would be absolute sacrilege for motor enthusiasts like us! Soda presents the gentlest clean we can provide, so it’s crucial for jobs like this one.
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
This vehicle represents a three-way collaboration between Volkswagen, German coach manufacturer Karmann, and Italian vehicle designer Carrozzeria Ghia and it enjoyed a 19 year production run between 1955 and 1974.
This particular specimen came to us thanks to TV show Car SOS. The car’s owner, Lee, had started to restore the vehicle but was unable to complete the work due to ill health. The show’s experts decided against cleaning the whole vehicle, preferring us to just clean the underside and a roughly 6-inch “band” around the entirety of the bodywork to enable them to check the sills, wheel arches, and so on.
We used crushed glass blasting for this project in order to remove all underseal, rust, and paint. As well as being an unusual-looking vehicle, it was a little unusual for us to simply clean a section of the bodywork. We were asked to keep within very precise lines, which is much harder than simply blasting away at a complete shell!
1967 Amphicar Model 770
The Amphicar is another rare gem in the vehicle restoration world, and one that we’re really glad to have had a part in – even if it meant being the bearer of bad news.
A natural successor to the Volkswagen Schwimmwagen, the Amphicar was available from 1961 until 1968, and was produced by the West German Quandt Group. It launched at the 1961 New York Auto Show and unfortunately there were only 3,878 ever built.
This particular 1967 Amphicar came to us from the TV show Wheeler Dealers, who needed to strip the bodywork back to gauge the work that was required. Once work had started, we discovered a hefty coating of filler that got thicker and thicker towards the bottom of the vehicle. Not only did this seem counter-intuitive as it would weigh the vehicle down, it turned out to be hiding a multitude of sins.
With anything aquatic, an element of rust and corrosion is to be expected. Unfortunately there was a lot of corrosion on the underside of the vehicle, and on removing the filler, we found that there was a large replacement panel around the trim of the vehicle that had also started to rust away. However, as with any vehicle restoration, it’s best to get a “warts and all” picture so you know exactly where the vehicle’s problems lie.
Because the vehicle features fibreglass components and some potentially quite old and possibly corroded metal, we decided to use soda blasting – our gentlest abrasive clean. Despite the problems that we helped unearth, the Wheeler Dealer team successfully restored the Amphicar and and even took it out for a spin on the Thames!
1954 Jaguar XK120 Pininfarina
The Pininfarina is widely touted the rarest Jag ever, and for good reason: there only appears to be one ever made. Understandably we jumped at the chance to work on this iconic motor, and it was one of the last full body cleans we carried out at our former site in Bilston. So it’s memorable on two counts for the SBL team!
The car’s story is believed to start with famous New York-based importer Max Hoffman. In 1954 he received this brand new one-off vehicle which features sleek bodywork painstakingly designed by Italian coachbuilder, Pininfarina. It featured at a few motor shows in the 1950s, and then sadly faded from the limelight.
Then, in 2015, Classic Motor Cars in Bridgnorth obtained the car after its previous owner (who purchased it Stateside in 1978) sadly failed to restore it to its former glory. CMC wanted to restore its original colour (a demure greenish-silver hue) as it had since been painted burgundy. Thankfully, we found a tiny patch of the original paintwork hidden away, enabling the team at CMC to match the colour precisely.
CMC had some very specific requirements for this job. They needed all of the aluminium bodywork (a rarity during the ‘50s due to an aluminium shortage) stripping with soda, but needed a certain area of the rear wing to stay untouched. We set to work, playing our part in the car’s history in under 4 days.
According to CMC, 6,725 hours of work went into the car’s complete “nut and bolt” restoration, including fabricating and 3D printing some components from scratch using photographs for reference. The Pininfarina was then unveiled at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance event in 2017.
Guy Martin’s “Wall of Death” Cylinder Head
This job that was fairly pedestrian from a blast cleaning perspective, but fascinating to us as fans of daring motoring feats. You may recall back in 2016 that Guy Martin broke the speed record for motorcycling around a “Wall of Death” on a live televised spectacular. We worked with the company who were tasked with building Guy’s bike for the challenge, who needed an aluminium cylinder head cleaning.
We were asked to give it a sleek satin finish, so it could be fitted straight onto the engine without needing to be repainted. For this, we used soda blasting to thoroughly clean away the paint, then finished the job with a spin in our vapour blasting unit. This removed any remaining substrate whilst giving the satin finish that the client requested.
The cylinder head wasn’t exactly the most exciting part of the whole record-breaking, death defying project, but it was a real once in a lifetime experience for us. It was one-off build with a very specific requirement – and one that Guy Martin could (and eventually did) use to break the Wall of Death speed record!
So never mind how obscure or unusual your vehicle is – the team at SBL can help you on the road to restoration! We’re a well-renowned, family-run business and we always aim to be approachable, efficient, and reliable above all else. Call us on 0800 774 7632 today for a friendly chat about making your next project a reality.