This past summer, Lane Motor Museum acquired one of the world’s strangest safety cars ever produced, Sir Vival. In the last article, I laid out the museum’s game plan on what needed to be done. Let’s take a peek in the restoration shop for an update and see how it’s all going.
For these next big steps in Sir Vival’s Re-Vival, it was decided that it needed to be moved from the museum’s basement storage area to what we call the Upper Restoration Shop. That’s on the other side of the building from the basement entrance, and this nearly 5,000 pound behemoth doesn’t fit on our service elevator (the biggest car I’ve ever gotten in the elevator is a NSU Wankel Spider).
Sir Vival’s frame is “structurally compromised”, which is a technical term that means “rusty and has lots of holes”. Our fabricator Michael had to make this small bracket in order to marry the two sections and be able to tow it around the parking lot. It’s attached by long bolts.
Since its still doesn’t steer, wheel dollies are deployed to help get the car into the shop. Our curator Derek is finding just the right jacking point so as not to damage the frame any further. We will need to get the entire car off of the ground in order to put the dollies fully under each tire.
Sir Vival in its new habitat for the foreseeable future. Once the jack stands were in place, we removed the rear tires.
Before we begin the conservation and restoration process, Michael will 3-D scan the car to give us a base condition report. Essentially, we’re documenting where the car is at this point in time. After stabilizing the paint, we will re-scan it, and compare the two images side-by-side to see how the paint has progressed or how much has been lost. Plus, the scan will aid in constructing a buck in order to reproduce panels or trim pieces if needed.
Here you can see where Derek has already begun the process of stabilizing what is left of the paint. Once the dust has been cleaned off and the loose pieces have been carefully removed (or have fallen off), the exterior by will be cleaned by hand, layer by layer.
This is Sir Vival’s punch list, as you can see by this high-tech notation device. [Editor’s Note: I like any car restoration to-do list that starts with “split in two.” – JT]
This is the current state of the frame. We were worried that we would lose much more of it when the car was towed around the building, but amazingly, nothing broke or fell off.
Much of the interior has already been removed, including the driver’s seat and dashboard. Derek is assessing what can be cleaned and restored, and what will need to be outright replaced.
This is looking up from the floor to the driver’s “turret.”
Ok, now onto the fun part. The two parts of the car will need to be separated. First, we’ll jack up the back end of the front section so that it’s supported.
Next, Michael unbolts and removes the plate he made.
With the help of the jack, Derek and Michael carefully slide forward the front section, and voila! Sir Vival is now un-docked from itself.
This is looking into the engine bay from behind. Most likely the motor mount broke in transit. The toothed gear you see there is part of the steering mechanism. Driving this thing must have been a great upper arm workout.
Sir Vival continues to amaze and fascinate. I also find the car kind of humorous, because while its creator Walter Jerome was concerned with crash protection, he didn’t put a whole lot of science or actual car engineering into his creation. I mean, I couldn’t build something like this and make it run and drive, so it’s a testament to what he was able to pull off. However, I have many questions, like how did it make a right turn? The turning radius has to be a half-mile long. There’s video of it moving, but it was done at a slow speed, so maybe that’s the answer.
The Re-Vival of Sir Vival is going to be a long process, so there’ll be plenty of new discoveries in the meantime. As we dig into Mr. Jerome’s archives, I’ll keep you updated on any new and interesting information that pops up.