An essay about the restoration and repair of a 1966 Citroen AK 350
The art of the possible – Otto Von Bismarck
It is possible that some of these posts will be of use especially if you are of a certain age, have decided to restore an old car, don’t quite have all the requisite skills and are of the ‘how hard can it be’ persuasion.
To start: Firstly, select your project. For me it had to be a Citroen 2CV Van. I had one of these in the late 1970’s, which my father kindly bought for me. A 1976 Citroen AK400 in Orange. Actually, he bought it for himself but not being remotely mechanically minded or blessed with any manual skills beyond pulling a lawn mower starting string, he gave it to me with a ‘look what I’ve got you’ flourish of enthusiasm , which at 19 years old was enough to convince me that I must have it and that it was the best gift that one could ever have. Every surface was covered in guano. ‘It was owned by a chap who used to keep birds of prey’ said my father – and at 19, this only added to its desirability. It was rotten to the core. The front wings were perforated with holes – like a cheese grater. The bottom 3 inches of the rear doors were made of rust held together with a thin coating of Orange paint – it had rust and it had it bad, but I loved it. I kept it for a few years, during which time I replaced the wings and the rear doors, the rusty flap at the front and painted over the rest of the rust with some new fangled acrylic orange paint. I had a lot of fun in that van and regretted selling it, but we needed the £400 to fund a trip round Europe, so it had to go and ever since then I’ve been looking for another one.
About 5 years ago, I found one. A Citroen AK350. Older and more desirable than the AK400, with its lower roof line, longer rear body and ‘small ripple’ panels. It was on eBay and was in Stalham – just 15 miles away and no-one had bid on it. I went to have a look at it first, which is unlike me, as I was pretty convinced I would buy it anyway, it seemed churlish not to see the goods before parting with any cash. Nobody else bid on it, so it was mine for the maiden bid of £3250 – a bargain. It didn’t run because it had no battery, but the seller informed me that it ran like a sewing machine and it had a recent MOT, so it had to be ok. In fact it was ok. The paintwork is dreadful – the seller was a painter and decorator and had been busy with a tin of Farrow and Ball French Grey for the outside and a can of silver paint for the inside. It’s like driving around in a 40 gallon oil drum with a lawn mower engine running at full tilt to keep you company. Noisy, smelly and thing that people who are not in it, like to point, laugh and shout at. ‘Look at that thing that old man is driving – what is it’?
‘It’s been restored’ – said the seller. In much the same way that a new coat of creosote can transform a rotten old fence and make it look like new for a week or two, yes – it had been ‘restored’. It came with a photo album and there’s a bit of info here the original restoration. The previous owner to the eBay seller restored it in a very ‘French Farmer’ fashion. No point in making it look nice – ‘it needs to be strong and serviceable’ was his mantra. The eBay seller had taken offence to the colour silver and had slathered the French Grey all over, including the original signwriting, having sanded off most of it off prior to painting. Never mind.
So, after 5 years of light summer use, the dreaded rust had started to appear. Like mould in a damp bathroom, it eats away at the soul until one simply cannot ignore it any more. I didn’t take the van out in the rain because it leaked terribly. I couldn’t see where the water was coming in, but it ran behind the dashboard from left to right and formed a rusty puddle of water on the floor, which in turn was beginning to eat its way through the bottom of the car, like the xenomorph creature’s blood in Alien. The doors don’t fit properly, it rattles, leaks, squeaks and grinds. Something has to be done and I have to do it. All I need is a place to do it…