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.
As Torch will tell you, it’s amazing what you can do with modern tow straps and an old Ford pickup.
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.
I drove by this thing for years stuff there) and am so glad its getting its due.
Forgive me if this has already been addressed but I can’t seem to find it, what drivetrain is this running? Is it some modification the original Hudson stuff, it almost seems like it would need to be FWD for simplicity sake with the articulated front end. I don’t recognize that transmission in the pics.
As an aside, I’m actually supposed to go look at a couple of project car Hudsons tomorrow or Friday, seeing that frame rot gives me something else to look out for!
It has the original Hudson engine and transmission. It uses the original two piece Hudson driveshaft and remains rear wheel drive.
As for the chassis, this is a ‘step down’ Hudson… these Hudsons had a type of unitized body and frame, and were notorious for these type of corrosion issues.
How about the visibility from about…. 12:30 til about 2? Verrrrry safe.
This was another funny “safety” item I didn’t mention in the article. Even though the driver’s seat is elevated, there is still a big blind spot at, like you say, 12:30. How he kept it in the lane is not clear yet. We will most certainly get some point-of-view videos when we get it running.
I hope we get the full series as this progresses. I love a good restoration story, and something as unique as this is fascinating.
I love the last picture. It looks like two robots realizing that they were made for each other.
I love that task board. It reminds me of an old Shoe comic strip joke. Shoe decides to replace his transmission himself. He buys a DIY Book (before Google) Step 1 Remove Transmission.
Id love an ongoing column in which they document a restoration from start to finish. Cover each step in detail. List the brand of products used, (Hey Autopian staff ad sale idea) how to clean old leather or paint without making it worse. Submit questions etc. What tools to buy what to rent. AD IDEA HOOT HOOT!
This Old Automobile
I’ve seen probably 10 articles on this car over the last few years, and only seconds ago put the name together.. I need a minute alone :/
now seeing other comments and I’m not alone. woof. ????
I am truly impressed by the strength of that rusty steel. I find it hard to believe it didn’t fall apart. But then again, I have seen David do things with rustbuckets worse than this….
very cool to see getting revived
Is all that frame rot from sitting? It looks a lot like salt damage, but, surely, this couldn’t have been driven enough for that to happen – unless the donor Hudson was just a bit rusty to start with?
Probably flat tires and sank into the dirt, or weeds/plants. They wick up a lot of moisture and hold it against the underside when parked for long periods.
The Hudson came from a pre-galvanized age, so that could be a part of it. Sir Vival was stored indoors most of the last 50 years, but it don’t remember if it was heated/cooled. Also, Mr. Jerome drove it through the late 1960s. He may not have given the undercarriage a good washing before it was put into storage.
I lived in New England for nearly two decades… A lot of old garages/barns are built atop old, cracked, leaky slabs (or just packed earth). And tucked under trees. On land where “mud season” lasts half the year. (The other half is frozen…) So, yeah, it was stored “indoors” but quite likely a still in a very damp environment. Lots of long-term condensation, especially trapped between the floor and the underside of the car.
Can’t wait for a Torch drives on this one! Or will it be all show and no go? I wouldn’t blame you for taking that route.
Rex, these articles about the goings on at the Lane are always enjoyable! I hope there is an Autopian tour someday. I’ll drive in from Detroit for sure.
Fantastic update on the car. I love this content and bless you for doing God’s work restoring unique pieces of history.
After seeing that rusty frame, I eagerly await David’s next post: “You won’t believe what I’m taking to Moab!”
I think ‘structurally compromised’ should be renamed tracyized
Is this going to be a full running/ driving restoration or just cosmetic/ museum exhibit depth?
The directive from Jeff Lane: get it to running/driving condition, while preserving the patina as best we can. Now, that’ll take a while to get there, but yes, one day we hope to offer rides in it.
” …preserving the patina as best we can….”
Damn – there goes my idea for an LS swap.
is “patina” a fancy word for rust-bucket??
Have you been to a “classic car show” that didn’t require a suit? The answer is always yes.
The 3D scan is really cool. I understand the practical use in a restoration process, but does the museum ever scan completed cars with the intention of sharing the views with the public who might not be able to visit in person? It seems like a great opportunity for outreach and a way to help more people to learn about these unique cars.
Great idea, logistically improbable though. LMM is a non-profit with a relatively small amount of employees. With 550+ cars in the collection, I don’t think its feasible. It would be awesome though, especially for cars like the Gyro-X.
A publicly accessible 3D scan archive provided by a classic car museum would be absolutely killer for restorers. Imagine working on a weirdo car like this that’s missing some unobtanium parts that would need fabrication and you could just download a template to work from.
Ultimately, yes, this is the goal. As Grizzled says, though, we’re a small staff. Someone would have to scan and upload 550+ cars. That’s enough work for a lifetime.
Eventually we would like to have a full-time archivist, and everything could not only be scanned, but available for the public. It would be a major part of our educational mission.
That’s cool. Seeing the scan in this article reminded me of what the Smithsonian has done with some of their artifacts:
It’s a great way to use technology for more people to be able to learn about historically significant items in ways that are impractical… or even impossible to do in person.
Scanning all 550+ cars is a daunting effort for sure. Even 10% of that is still a huge undertaking, but like the silly poster in my dorky high school guidance counselor’s office said: “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”
I volunteer as tribute, Rexxy
If they got a camera crew in there they could make an entire season restoration episodes out of this.
Omg it just hit me like a ton of bricks, Sir Vival = safety car. Sir vival. Sirvival. Survival. I feel almost as dumb as this car looks.
Good to see that the Sir Vival itself is Sur Viving, though.
Reminds me of the knight guarding the bridge in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
And please don’t forget Sir Not-Appearing-In-this-Film.
That happens to all of us. After the Waco biker brawl, I had never heard of the Twin Peaks restaurant chain. I assumed it was mountaineering-themed and would have animal heads and survival gear on the walls. Nope, it’s a breastaraunt. The twin peaks are the waitresses’ boobs. Suddenly it made a lot more sense as the scene of a biker brawl.
I would have assumed it was David Lynch themed lol
As far as I’m concerned this is the most important automobile restoration in car history. Bless you all.
See, Jonee gets it. Also, this sounds like a review on the back of a novel or a DVD case (remember those, kids?!). We may have to quote you for future promotional materials.
It’s going to take a lot of labor and a lot of love. Good luck on this one.
“Sir Vival’s frame is “structurally compromised”,”
(squints at the pictures)
… what frame?
This will probably be harder than it was to build it in the first place. Keep us posted!
Oh, most certainly.
It was a Sunshine Bakery
Sunbeam Bread actually. Either way, they did a fantastic reclamation on an old factory to create this place.
This is great, and reminds me I have to mine my old hard drives for the pictures of it in the “wild”..
Unrelated question, but it’s been bugging me since I visited the Lane in 2016… what sort of business was originally housed in the building?
Sunbeam Bakery. Very southern brand. Beautful job retaining the industrial charm of the building and making it feel fresh.
And now I’ve got the Batter-Whipped Sunbeam bread jingle stuck in my head, thanks for that
Ron is correct, and thanks! Yes, the building was built in 1952, and was a state-of-the-art facility at the time. It ran three shifts a day, only closing for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, until about 1994. Jeff Lane bought it in 2002, when it was just used for offices and one delivery van was parked in the shop, for local deliveries.
I’m a preservationist at heart…if an old building can be reused and not bulldozed to the ground, then let it live on! I’m glad they picked this old factory and saved an important part of Nashville’s industrial history.