A Hot Rod Roadster From A Rusty Wreck

Within our community of hackers and makers you may sometimes encounter a belief that we have somehow regained a hold on the workshop lost by everyone else. But while it might be true that some of the general population may barely know one end of a screwdriver from the other it’s a huge overstatement to claim exclusivity. There are plenty of other scenes blessed with an astonishing level of engineering skill and from which breathtaking projects emerge, and it is a great pity that sometimes they exist in isolation from each other.

One such scene is that of car modification. By this we don’t mean the youths with their inadequately powered bottom-feeder cars adorned with deformed plastic, fake carbon fibre and farty exhaust pipe extensions from Halfords or Advance Auto, nor do we mean the silly-priced professional hotrods beloved of certain cable TV reality shows. Instead we mean the ordinary car hackers who take the unexciting and unloved of the automotive world into their garages and through a combination of vision and skill fashion it into something amazing. As an illustration of this art we’d like to introduce you to [ScaryOldCortina]’s “Mayday”. It’s a build from a few years ago, but no less impressive for the elapsed time.

A very rusty Austin Somerset indeed
A very rusty Austin Somerset indeed

If you are British the chances are your grandparents might have driven an Austin Somerset in the early 1950s. An unexciting mid-sized chassis-based saloon car that wasn’t badly designed but had all the inadequate rust protection you’d expect from a car of that era. A Somerset arrived in [ScaryOldCortina]’s garage that looked solid but turned out on inspection to be rusty enough that it could almost be disassembled with a hefty tug on some of the panels. He could have scrapped it, but instead he refashioned it into something a lot more exciting, a two-seater hotrod roadster. In a particularly impressive touch, he re-used most of the metal from the Somerset in its new body in a different form, for example its curved roof was cut in half to form the side panels of the new car.

The full build is in a very long thread on the Retro Rides car forum. If you read it from start to finish you’ll find an in-depth description of the minutiae of the 1950s British car parts bin, but if that will be a bit much for you we have some highlights.

When the car arrived, in his first post you can see just how far the rust had eaten into an outwardly complete vehicle and how easily he could strip away its panels. Fortunately the Somerset is a chassis-based car, so underneath the rusty bodywork was a rolling chassis which had miraculously escaped the worst of the corrosion. His vision for the car required the chassis to be shortened, but he was able to place the panels on the chassis to get an idea of what it might look line before getting out the cutter and welder and assembling the new body tub. A lot of hard work assembling the running gear into a roadworthy form and making its unlovely Austin “B” series engine into something a little more useful, and he was finally able to take it for a short test drive. The car passed all the relevant tests for British roadworthiness, and made a very cool piece of transport.

Happily though it’s the first to feature so much rust this is not the first Hackaday story involving the hacking of ancient automobiles. We recently had a look at the hacking potential of Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle, we’ve examined the work of professional TV hot-rodders when challenged over their authenticity, we’ve taken a look at Cuba’s surviving pre-revolutionary American cars, and we’ve featured a crazy project involving a Mini and a Toyota Celica.

20 thoughts on “A Hot Rod Roadster From A Rusty Wreck

  1. Alchemists in ancient days strove to turn lead into gold the alchemists of our day turn iron oxide into motor vehicles that are worth their weight in gold.

    Give a pommy pannel beater a mound of iron oxide and for tyres and they can create just about any motor vehicle ever made ;)

  2. The problem is that having once done it then in the UK you cannot afford to insure it.

    Motor insurance in the UK is so anal that strictly speaking if you put alloys on a car that didn’t have them when new then your insurance will double because it is a modification and if you do not declare it then they have a right to refuse any claim, even if the same alloys were an option when new.

    A vehicle like that one would have to be insured by a specialist insurance company unless you have a motor trade policy and even then they may whinge about it.

    1. I’m not sure I agree entirely, in that mainstream insurers are so scared of their own shadows they’ll quote you thousands, but the specialist brokers are in competition with each other so will come up with something more sensible. Remember, we have a long history of backyard car building, think how Lotus started.

      I think what you say is more true for the Halfords end of the modified car market, but not for the kitcar/classic end.

      I don’t know [SoC] personally, but I think he may have a trade policy though.

      1. With some luck and not a small amount of work we should get it back once we get out of Europe. TVR Reliant, Lotus MCLaren Aston Martin all still exist in one way or another and are (mostly) British. Let’s get a few more and start growing them then we can show the Krauts how to make cars again. :)

          1. Most the companies he names are foriegn owned, either partially, or entirely, depend on trade deals with german automakers for parts and components (aston martin for daimler drivetrain and electrical parts for eg), and will be massively affected if the brexit happens.
            But this isnt the BBC’s HYS, lets leave the politics to the ignorant masses on there eh?

      2. I’d agree with both of you. In some parts of Europe you insure the car for any driver. In the UK you insure both the car and the specific driver(s) allowed on it.
        And strictly speaking it’s anal enough that adding stickers to the car counts as a modification, the onus is on you to declare literally everything that isn’t stock no matter how trivial. Strict wording.

        This will be easily insurable with specialist companies who deal with this sort of risk. The folks that advertise on TV are a waste of time, you’ve got to read the classic press or places like retro rides forums to find the names.

        We’re talking the mainstream folks who will refuse to even quote if you mention you’ve got a roll cage fitted, verses the specialists who will make it mandatory once you get to a certain power level above stock.

    2. I think I would have to disagree with you on that one, companies like Adrian flux are actually much more reasonably priced than you may think especially if it is classed as a classic. Don’t get me wrong if you are an 18 year old who puts a turbocharger on your car you are going to see huge premium increases… but lets be honest the odds of an 18 year old crashing a self modified high performance car have also sky rocketed.

      1. Yes, Adrian Flux are competitive but that is all. The prices are still absolutely ridiculous when you don’t just look at the comparison but consider what you actually get for your hard earned £.

        In my opinion if the government insist on something like insurance then they should handle it, not private companies. All the insurance companies are in each other’s pockets and the prices are rigged like any monopoly and it is wrong.

    3. When you stray into properly modified territory, the rates fall significantly as statistically your a much lower risk having spent all that time and care and attention, you tend to avoid accidents and damage. There’s also the scenario that you quite often get inspected roadside because the inspector is interested so its in everyones interest to keep everything in good order all the time, not just bodge something up for the MOT like quite a lot of “normal” cars on the road have done.
      Plus theres pride, when somethings wrong it niggles me until I sort it out.
      I have a (extremely modified) 1950’s Ford Pop 103e hotrod with a v8 in it thats cheap to insure for me and I just insured my land rover forward control which also has a v8 for 30e more on a classic policy I have.
      In fact the most expensive car by far to insure is a 2007 ford galaxy that gets used by my wife for shunting the kids round and going shopping in which costs upwards of 400e a year.
      THe hot hatch brigade get stung, but thats because they’ve proved they are a higher risk of being involved in something as a demographic. Sucks if your a hot hatch enthusiast who isnt a idiot but its just about the money and risk, nothing personal.

    4. Specialist insurers are fine I was with HIC (austin mini clubman, 1400cc k-series, turbocharged, over 300hp and ran 11.9 quarter mile) fully declared every modification which was a very extensive list, insurance was 3-400 quid a year, unlimited mileage.

    5. Rubbish. Specialist insurers for things like this are surprisingly cheap. For something like that on a limited-mileage policy (probably <3k miles), I'd expect to be paying less than £100.

  3. nice post, looked at all the pictures and sighed melancholically. But told myself I am already doing 4 or 5 projects now – not counting the small ones that come and go in between.

  4. We had a sec. car sitting in the drive way for 5 years. and the reason we did was insurance was $120 less with a sec car on the insurance figger that one out. We had no chose but remove it for we are having the driveway redone.
    Only in canada. The world is getting more and more @#$% up….

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