Crossley Regis - Body construction notes.
NOTE: Additional photographs of the construction period of the car will be found in Gallery 2 on this site.
These notes describe the reconstruction of a Crossley Regis after the original body had been dismantled due to rot in the timbers and general wear and tear. Some timbers had been saved and these were able to be used as patterns for the new body and to ensure that, as far as possible, dimensions were correct and allowed the whole body to be assembled and allow the existing doors that had survived intact, to fit the new frame. As well as the doors, various metal panels remained to be used and allowed measurements to be confirmed during the construction.
When undertaking work of this nature on an amateur basis, tools required include band saw, jig saw, work bench with circular saw and a router. The latter is not always as useful as it appears since its use requires templates and guides to be made to enable the router to be operated on the many-angled pieces of timber and hand work is often easier and quicker. The degree of finish depends always upon one's own skills, whether using machinery or hand tools. Similarly, the work bench with circular saw is useful for ripping sheets up or cutting straight sections of timber. The curves in the "A" and "B" posts prevent the bench being of much use with the shaping of these pieces.
Whilst these notes detail the full body reconstruction, normally only selected areas require repair. The requirements will differ depending on the condition of the body to be rebuilt. Parts for small repairs can be measured against a similar section on the opposite side of the car whilst a full rebuild will require dimensions to be taken from a similalrly bodied car if possible. Be aware, however, that coachbuilding techniques did not usually allow for interchangeable parts and whilst each side of the car is similar, there may be small differences in measurements from one side to the other. Coachbuilding techniques usually called for two men to build a body each dealing with one side of the car and assisting each other where that was necessary. Both had to work from drawings and it was expected that dimensions would never be more than one quarter of an inch different between sides. Generally, this meant that, for example, if the distance from the A-post to the C-post was 60 inches, it would be this, within the quarter of an inch plus or minus but the doors might be found, within this dimension, to be slightly different in lengths between sides and this has to be taken into account when doing repairs, of course. Another aspect of making repairs, rather than building a complete body or part of one is that a new section has to be fitted within the already established metal skin - where the skin is panel-pinned to the timber, these pins have to be pulled out and the metal pulled away from the wood enough for the new repair timber to be fitted when the metal is tapped back into position and pinned into place. Splicing in repairs such as this can seem far more difficult than building the complete body from scratch, except that it is much quicker - and in the long run easier - to repair than rebuild.
It is recommended that a full-size drawing be made of the parts or, in the case of a full rebuild, the actual body itself. This latter will require a sheet of drawing paper to be cut measuring ten feet six inches by four feet six inches and pinned to a suitable flat area. This will alow a full size drawing of the general layout of the body between tool box/scuttle area and the rear of the car to be drawn. Side elevation and plan need to be drawn with front and rear elevations as required. Individual timbers can also be reproduced from these sheets to the actual shape that will fit correctly with all the appropriate angles and shapes. Where existing parts such as doors are available for fitting, the drawing should include the actual measurements of the doors so that they will fit the body on completion.
Joints are generally of the halving joint type that gives a solid joint but allows some flexibility in the structure, this being a design requirement. The difficulty in making some of the joints is primarily due to the different planes in which the timbers come together, making measurements difficult to work out. Making templates from the main drawing will, however, assist this work. One problem is the decision to glue a joint. The joint then becomes stronger but flexing of the chassis and body will transfer movement from the glued joint to another and may well cause problems in due course. Similarly, bodies were usually built to a price. Time cost money and time to paint the internal wooden parts was an unaceptable delay in time and added cost. Repairs to a body should well include painint exposed timber sections to reduce the influx of water where appropriate.
NOTE: A book titled: "Wooden-bodied vehicles" - Buying, Building, Restoring and Maintaining. was published in 2013 by The Crowood Press Ltd, UK (www.crowood.com). The author is Colin Peck. This book is a "must" if repairing a wooden car. Modern restorers suggest that ALL joints are glued, using modern two-pack glues. The old glues failed over time and also attracted woodworm!
The A-post is generally at a 15 degree angle - this is, therefore, the angle for the windscreen and the front door timbers but should be checked since coachbuilding techniques allowed this angle to vary slightly from car to car.
This view shows the car, chassis number 100389 at the stage reached in Feburary 2002. The lower view shows, basically, some of the old timbers that were used as patterns from which dimensions had to be taken - the A and B-posts were in very dilapidated condition when the car was purchased in January 1998 as were most of the other pieces of timber able to be used only as patterns. Photo: P E Caunt.
Basic Construction Details:
The body is based in timber sills mounted on three brackets bolted to the outside of the chassis members on both nearside and offside. The vertical member of the sill is bolted withcoachbolts to the three brackets which are located close to the A and B-post brackets and just forward of the base of the rear wheelarch timber. This latter mounting corresponds to the C-post pillar that is attached to the wheelarch itself near the top of the arch.
The A and B-posts themselves are reinforced with solid, half round metal brackets bolted to the top of the chassis outrigger brackets and screwed to the inner faces of the A-posts. The B-posts are attached to the chassis brackets just aft of the bend in the chassis so that the front door rear face, being the hinge pilar for the door, is angled to accept this position. The front and rear doors' outer skins describe a slight curve in the horizontal plane between the A-post to the C-post , the line starting at the radiator shroud and continuing along the bonnet, through the scuttle area and doors to the rear of the boot surround. This is also the line of the swage that is picked out by aluminium beading from front to rear. A curvature is also apparent in the vertical plane most noticably on the B-post where the doors curve inwards at their bottom edges and again at the top to the top rails of the body. Similalrly, the top and bottom horizontal lines of the doors curve to a peak above and below the B-post area respectively.
Many of the joints in the framework comprising the body are reinforced with metal plates of varying strengths.
Plates are fitted in the following places: The windscreen top rail to body side top rails; A and B-posts to chassis brackets; Rear wheelarch rear end to boot side framing; B-post top to body top rail; Main transverse roof stay in the area of the C-post top is reinforced to the top rail and the two curved stays joining the rear window top rail; From the rear face of the C-posts under the body top rails to the side face of the rear window uprights; A plate is used to support the front of the wheelarches and the side rails over the rear wheelarch of the chassis; The windscreen base rail between the A-posts is supported by brackets each side. These locations may vary on bodies built by different coachbuilders but the above locations identify the main areas of reinforcement.
In the case of the metal brackets securing the base of the A-posts, be aware that these angle forward from the sill mounting by approximately one and a half inches as well as leaning backwards to match the angle of the A-post (usually 15 degrees).
Rear Wheelarch Construction:
An area that suffers from rot and dampness is the rear wheelarch. The original Crossley parts were made from solid ash and steam bent to shape before trimming to the curve of the rear side of the car. However, it is likely that only a part of the arch may need repair and this can be done using three millimetre bending plywood (or one eigth of an inch), fitted together in layers using a modern epoxy two-pack adhesive. Making the whole arch is as easy as making a section since the metal edge of the body can be used to provide the curve needed to construct a pattern in plywood. If only a short section of repair is needed, then only that area needs to be reproduced in the jig. The wheelarch shape should be marked on a sheet of plywood and two pieces cut to this shape. This will give you two semi-circular pieces with the curve being that of the arch. These pieces are then joined together with blocks of timber about one inch square and three inches wide. On the inner rim of the connecting block, on one of the plywood sheets, an aperture of about one inch square (or larger, depending on the clamps being used) should be cut to allow the top end of the clamp to grip the block. The clamps will hold the bending plywood in place against the shape of the wheelarch whilst the adhesive is curing. About twelve clamps will be required, at least three being of a suitable size to cover the widest part of the arch - sash clamps being the type- the remaining nine can be "G" clamps. This allows the clamping force to cover the whole length of the arch for a solid unit.
The bending plywood sheet needs to be cut into three inch wide lengths from a sheet of about eight feet by four feet, each piece being eight feet long. This allows ample oversize for trimming. Each strip is coated with adhesive and placed against the template and held loosely in the clamps until all eight strips are in place when the clamps are tightened. Each strip should be level at the front end of the wheelarch template so that the uneven ends will be at the ear where they will be cut to size on completion.
These views show the pattern in the shapes of the wheelarch curve withstrips of bending ply for the wheelarch alongside. In front is the first wheelarch removed from the pattern after the adhesive is fully cured.
The lower picture shows the bending ply strips on the pattern and clamped with six"G" clamps and three sash clamps. The sash clamps go across the whole pattern structure and provide a solid base for the new arch. Ensure that the adhesive is fully cured before removing from then pattern. About 24 hours is usually sufficient to modern two-pack adhesives at reasonable temperatures. Check the manufacturer's instructions for times of curing or setting. Photo: P E Caunt.
Be aware that, once the clamps are removed when the adhesive is cured, there can be some opening up of the curve and careful measuring must be made to ensure that the new wheelarch is to the correct dimensions. If the timbers at each end of the wheelarch are in good condition, then these will be a good guide for cutting to length. Where there is little to provide this guidance, then the full size drawing will assist at this stage.
The wheelarch is about three inches wide at its widest point but will need to be shaped to follow the body curvature in the vertical plane - after it has been cut to length as detailed below. Fixing will depend on the joints on the remaining existing timbers but there may well be metal brackets to reinforce the joints. On the Crossley Motors body, a block of timber joins the rear of the wheelarch to the boot side frame whilst other builders use a metal bracket in a "horseshoe" shape to join these sections. The front joint, where the wheelarch meets the rear of the sill is usually a butt joint with screws and metal brackets to secure the joint. This is one joint that will benefit from gluing. Once this length is found the side panel can be used to mark the shape along the new wheelarch which can then be cut to shape.
Where extensive rot or damage has removed the reference points needed for cutting the wheelarch to the correct size, a full size drawing can be used to provide correct dimensions. With the drawing on a level surface, place the rear door on the drawing in line with the sill and B-post and place the new, un-cut wheelarch in place until it follows the line of the rear metal body behind the C-post and then check that the wheelarch follows the curved line of the rear door. When the wheelarch is in line with these points, both the sill and rear ends of the arch can be marked for cutting. Note that the sill will be about one inch below the door bottom timber edge to allow for the "fill-in" strip under the door and on top of the sill.
When it is necessary to find a reference point with the sill on the car, then if a running board is removed, a spirit level of about 1.2metres in length can be held against the underside of the sill and the position of the wheelarch to the sill can be confirmed. This level can also be used to check the vertical measurement between the sill and the bottom of the C-post.
A and B-Posts:
Other prime repair areas may well be the bases of these two posts since water can attack these areas. Here, a section can be spliced into place to cpver the bottom twelve inches - or whatever is required - of the post to the sill. The A-post has the most complicated shape due to the angle of the sills and the curvature of the body. On the B-post, the angles on the front and rear faces are similar, being wider on the interior side to accommodate the door tapers. In both cases, however, the slight curve of the posts overall , from top to bottom, complicates the construction.
Scuttle and Tool Box areas:
This area is reasonably straight forward,measurements being the main problem if there is no timber to check against. When setting out the complete rebuild of the body, without other references, care must be taken to ensure that the A-posts are at the correct angle for the door front adges - usually 15 degrees - and the line of the lower windscreen base allows space for the steering wheel to be turned without the drivers' knuckles being too close to the windscreen or sill. This then provides a reference point from which the scuttle can be designed. The side panels are of metal with folded edges that bolt or screw to the top of the main sills and then screw to the scuttle side frames for added support and strength. The angled base of the tool box section against the front panel of the scuttle should be cut accurately to ensure a strong unit. The scuttle/tool box structure will benefit from adhesive for rigidity. The scuttle area carries a lot of stress when the car is travelling over rough roads and the steering column is fastened with a bracket to the dashboard support panel that fits between the scuttle side framing so all of it needs to be solid.
The Scuttle/Tool box Unit is shown left. The sides are metal panels and the remainder is made from half-inch plywood. Internally, the tool boxes are divided by a vertical panel on top of which is a thin panel fitted between the two lids. The bottom of the tool boxes is a sloping panel, the angle being shown by the line of screws on the side panel - this allows the front passengers' feet to reach the toe board. Later the bonnet catch will be bolted to the side panels. Sliding locks will be fitted to the tool box lids once the car is finished and the panels painted matt black. The framework on which the CVC unit fits can also be seen. The chassis plate is to the right front. When this picture was taken, the engine had not been overhauled. Photo: P E Caunt.
The view left shows a headlight purchased for the car. No lights were left with the car when purchased so these are being sought during the rebuilding period.
The lower view shows the lock, door window winder and door handle used by Ruskin Motor Bodies for the Regis. It shows the difference in locking systems, the Crossley body having locks fully recessed into the door frame as opposed to being added to the interior face. Similarly, the Crossley body windows operate on the "balanced" principle that requires no winding handle, the Ruskin type being the normal one requiring a handle. Photo: P E Caunt.
This view shows the offside doors fitted and hinged and adjusted so that the swage lines of the panels are in line. (November 2003.) Photo: P E Caunt.
A view of three doors: The offside doors viewed through the aperture of the front nearside door - all three hinged and moveable. (November 2003.) Photo: P E Caunt.
Construction of Body on Chassis 100389:
Construction of the feature car's bodywork was completed "from scratch". The doors and rear metal panels covering the sides of the boot and wheelarches were available so that the timber frame could be made to enable these items to fit into it. This is the reverse of normal bodywork procedures where the frame is first made and the door frames made to fit then all the body is "skinned" - that is, the metal cladding is fitted to the frames of body and doors. During the construction of the body, therefore, it was necessary to consider the position of the rear panels so that the distance from the scuttle to rear was maintained with doors fitting the new frame with appropriate clearance around the door frame and main framework. The rear window frame was made early in the rebuild but was fitted only at a later stage since it was found that the roof panel that covered the rear of the roof (turret) and the side to the windscreen top rail did not reach as far as the windscreen top rail. It was realised that the rear window frame was supposed to lean forward at a ten degree angle - it had been fitted vertically - and the C-posts were supposed to lean forward at a four degree angle, not vertically. These small changes made a great difference to the body as did the height of the rear window frame. This was found to be sited too high at first and various changes were made to reach the correct position.
The inner wings can be fitted to check the relation of the rear wheel arches and the main body structure but cannot be left in place for reference since they cover the screw fasteneing of the C-posts which frequently needs to be removed for adjustment work.
Door Check Straps:
The slots in the doors and C-posts need to be made to accommodate the check straps used to prevent the doors straining their hinges. Modern straps may be of different thickness from the original part and the slots must be adjusted to accommodate them. On the front doors, the check strap is anchored on the B-post and slides through the slot in the rear vertical frame of the door with a "stop" on the end of the strap within the door to prevent it from coming free. This strap is secured underneath the reinforcing bracket that holds the B-post in place on the chassis outrigger bracket.
On the rear doors, the strap is not anchored at either end. Within the door, the strap has a "stop" or rod through the end to prevent it coming free and slides in the rear frame slop of the door but also slides in the slot of the C-post, again with a "stop" on the end. Inside the area behind the C-post is a metal plate between the strap and the outer panel to stop the metal "stop" fro damaging the outer skin should it twist at any stage of its operation.
On all the doors, the hinges also provide a backup system since the hinges have a "return" on them that prevents the hinge from opening more than the ninety degree position. The straps, however, stop the door at the seventy degree position. This arrangement on the hinges will not, of course, hold the doors that open if the vehicles is in motion since the speed of opening would pull the hinge flap out of its screw fastenings. Ensure that the doors are positively closed when driving!
The boot lid is also held in the open position by long leather straps fastened to the boot lid edges and the top frame of the boot aperture. Crossley-bodies cars used a more sophisticated - and expensive - metal folding lever system.
If replacing the CVC unit on the Regis, it is suggested that the original CJR2 unit be replaced by a more reliable RJF91/L2 unit with Lucas Part No. 337910. Wiring connection details are basically the same as the later CJR3 unit as shown in the wiring list on this site. The CVC unit is mounted o a wooden frame on the tool box front and not directly to the tool box. This allows wiring from the rear of the CVC to leave the unit without being trapped against the base timber.
This view shows the framework complete on Chassis 100389 in November 2005.
Doors are fitted and hinged and the panels now have to be fitted and pinned in place. Areas of aluminium that are missing will have to be replaced with new aluminium and joined to the older panels.
All the wings will be fitted and the bonnet and running boards made by a professional company before the wings and running boards and bonnet are removed for painting. Once the paintwork is complete, everything will have to be re-assembled.
At least, the end is in sight!