Home » Here’s What It’s Like To Maintain The World’s Quirkiest Car Collection

Here’s What It’s Like To Maintain The World’s Quirkiest Car Collection

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Lane Motor Museum’s restoration shop is one part of the museum that isn’t really open to the public. The shop staff allowed me to walk around and take notes and pictures without too much complaining and yelling at me. Come with me as we tour all the strange, exciting, and occasionally mystifying projects.

1938 Tatra T97

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This levitating Tatra is actually getting some brake work done.It’s been in the shop before, but after a recent drive, it was brought to the shop fora mushybrake pedal feel. Sure enough, the brake shoe shad developed a hairline crack and has started to delaminate, so they were sent off to be relined. 2 Large

Whilewaiting for the brakes to come back, Nick noticed a there was quite a bit of oil leaking out from around the rear half shafts. There are a series of boots around those half-shafts: a two-piece inner plastic boot and two layers of outer leather boots to keep debris out of the shafts. As you can see in the picture, the outermost leather boot was caked in oil. Most likely there are some pinhole leaks that are seeping oil. 3 Large

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Here’s a shot of the T97’s front leaf spring setup, just for fun:

Tatra Leafspring

 

1952 Gregory Roadster

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In 1951, AMC designer Ben Gregory constructed this (front-mounted!) Porsche 356-engined, front-wheel drive roadster in an attempt to start a new car company. It’s getting its door hinges touched up while the carpeting is getting installed. 

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The rear bumper, taillights, and name plate have been installed, and the seat frames are getting repaired and repainted. The steering wheel was sent off for restoration, which our shop fabricator Michael will need to ensure the seats will fit correctly.

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[Editor’s Note: Look how flat that floor is! Flat-four up front, flat-floor inside. They should have used that in their ads. But they never really had ads. – JT]

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1992 Hobbycar B-612 Amphibious Prototype

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The gauges for the (sort of) amphibious Hobbycar B-612 finally are installed in the binnacle, but a new issue has developed before we can send this one back to the lake, or road, or both. 

[Editor’s Note: I drove/boated this crazy thing once. It’s amazing. – JT]

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The B-612’s Citroën-sourced hydro-pneumatic suspension allows for a range of height-adjustability. Pneumatic cylinders at each wheel counteracts the natural sag of the unloaded suspension in the water, and pulls wheels up tight to reduce drag. We are having trouble balancing the ride-height for on-road use…. it keeps trying adjust the suspension during parking lot driving. 

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1967 Honda S800

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This lovely little S800’s primary brake cylinder went out, so we are waiting for a new one.

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The S800 was the successor to the chain-drive S600 Roadster and Coupe, and has an amazing 8500 rpm redline. These were never sold in America, which is a shame, because it’s the epitome of slow-car fast, in my opinion. 

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[Editor’s Note: That goes to 11! – JT] 

1982 Matra Murena

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This mid-engine, rear-wheel drive French sports car is in for a tuneup, brake work, and an oil change. I know, not terribly exciting stuff, but it’s French and from the early 1980s so I’ll update everyone when a new issue inevitably pops up during this routine maintenance. 

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The Murena and its predecessor the Bagherra were known for their three-across seating, unusual for a sports coupe. While the middle passenger’s legs looks like they would fit to the right of the shift knob, it still brings back memories of riding in the middle of the bench seat of my stepdad’s old manual Ford F250, and having to uncomfortably splay when he had to shift from 3rd to 4th gear.

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Also of note: this was back when your dash badging proudly displayed the engine’s displacement.

1959 Lloyd LT600

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This little multi-purpose van from Germany was built by Lloyd, the low-cost, entry level brand of the Borgward family of cars. The ignition switch is loose, so we are carefully reinstalling it with new hardware into the thin wood dash. 

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All Photos: The Lane Museum

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39 Responses

  1. What an amazing place it must be. Old Tatra parts availability must be a pain, but of course with so many one-offs and other weird and ultra-rare vehicles, that’s really nothing for you guys.

      1. I think Jeremy Clarkson explained the French like three-across seating because the driver can transport themselves, their spouse and a paramour in the same row of seating. It’s a French form of egalitarianism.

    1. Ha! Once we get through fixing and restoring the *checks notes* 550 cars in the collection, plus maintaning those cars, with only 5 maintenance/restoration staff members, it’ll be a minute until we can take outside orders 😉 .

    2. If it’s anything like shops around here, you make an oil change appointment for 8AM and they call you back a month later to tell you it’s done.

    1. I visited the Museum this year, exact same reaction, walked in the door and there were a number of “Lane Type” cars and a Lotus Elite. My first thought was, where else in the world can a first generation Lotus Elite be the “normal” car in the group.

  2. I had a ’57 Multipla in the same color scheme as the one seen in the Honda shot. That was a fun car. Caused a guy to get a ticket for failure to turn in a turn only lane after he was so freaked out by it.

  3. It’s been since 2008 ( I think) but when I was there for the Rally for the Lane (I drove the 58 Tatra), I was sorely tempted to come to work for you guys – these weird little cars are what I’ve worked on my whole career. Stuff that most people have never even heard of, and I enjoy the heck out of fixing cars like this.

    Sadly, it would have meant moving to Nashville, and the bride wasn’t having that……

  4. I visited the Lane museum middle of last year and had a great time. However, THIS is much more interesting to me. Is it possible to get a “behind the scenes” shop tour or is that part of the museum entirely off limits?

    1. There’s usually way too much stuff in the shop to properly bring even a small group of folks on a tour of it. However, we do occasionally have shop tours with Jeff Lane for special events for our museum members. That takes a lot for the staff to tidy up and make it safe for people to walk around.

      Short answer…sometimes.

    2. Also, that’s kind of why I do these shop update articles. I still plan to do a walk-around tour of the shop, and maybe a video.

      Some of these projects takes weeks to get through, waiting on parts, fitting the parts, testing/driving, so that is why the articles are basically quarterly.

  5. Great article! Always nice to see behind the scenes at the Lane Motor Museum.
    And is that the same Hobbycar that…sank? Could the suspension issues be related to that, that is, even after drying out & being refurbished the Hobbycar might still have some gremlins lurking in the depths?

    1. Yes, the sinking in the lake incident could well be linked to the drying out of the suspension bits, but it may just be age and use. Remember, this is a now 30 year old prototype made from a mish-mash of other cars.

      1. Thank you for the information!
        Good grief, 1992 is 30 years ago?!? Still have the mindset that the 80s were some 20 years ago…
        Presumably the electrical system has already been sorted out since that seems to be among the first issues to be addressed with any flooded (or sunk) vehicle? Ha, yeah, guess issues are bound to pop up with any mish-mash of other cars. Good luck!

  6. I just thought of a new word and I’m going to claim it here: FLATSTER!!!!

    I didn’t realize the S800 never made it over. Maybe it made it to Canada but not the US? For some time years ago I used to see one in my neighbourhood. Maybe private import? It was LHD, so not JDM.

    I loved how it kind of looked like a 3/4 scale Sunbeam Tiger.*

    *Which i could also afford.

  7. Ha, “it still brings back memories of riding in the middle of the bench seat of my stepdad’s old manual Ford F250, and having to uncomfortably splay when he had to shift from 3rd to 4th gear” brings back memories of my late and lamented Datsun 210 where men riding in the front passenger seat would inevitably man-spread until I shifted into 3rd and 4th gears.

  8. I am very curious about the steering wheel refurbishment. I have seen they very nice version where the old steering wheel is fixed with clay or other material and then used to make a mold. Then the old plastic or Bakelite is removed leaving the metal frame which is then inserted into the mold before being reapplied in epoxy or other plastic. I have also seen the more budget friendly but less useable and way more fragile version of fixing the plastic rim using epoxy putty (just like plumbers epoxy) and then being sprayed black.

    How does your shop handle this?

    1. We are going with option A that you mentioned: the old steering wheel is used to make a mold, and a newer plastic is formed around the original rim. I just asked our shop manager about your question, and he said the steering wheel should be back tomorrow. I’ll update when it comes in.

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