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Owner Restoration: Wolseley

Farmer Peter Lawson paid £20 for this Wolseley. Here’s how he restored a thoroughly rotten barn-find to rude health.

Our story begins when farmer Peter Lawson spotted a decrepit Wolseley 16/60 in an open-sided hillside barn. ‘I saw it first 10 or 12 years ago, maybe more,’ says Peter, who instantly liked the look of the poorly Wolseley. Cumbrian hill farmers traditionally favoured old Farinas as they were cheap and had big boots.

When the farmer who owned the Wolseley died in a farm accident it disappeared from the barn, and Peter assumed the car had been scrapped or sold. He thought nothing of it until 2004, when he noticed a familiar rear light in another tumbledown shed, further up the same hill.

‘I asked the widow if I could have a look, and she said I could have the car for £40.’ Peter went to inspect it, but couldn’t believe what greeted him. The Cumbrian climate had not been kind to the Wolseley. 

It was now so rotten that the rear wheel and axle could be seen from inside the cabin, it had sunk intot he mud up to its floorpan, and the wings had fallen off. The shed’s tin roof had collapsed and was scraping the Wolseley’s roof when the wind blew, producing a high-pitched horror-movie-esque screech.

‘There was no door on the shed so the cows had got in,’ says Peter. ‘They’d been rubbing against the old car and pooing on it. It was absolutely awful. I didn’t want it.’

A year later, Peter decided to have just one last look. It was as awful as he’d remembered. But six months later, in late 2005, Peter got a call from the farmer’s daughter to say they were selling their little far, and that if he still wanted that old car, for £20 he should come and get it quickly.

Removing the car from the shed wasn’t an easy task though, they tried inserting a plank under the car to try to lever it out of the mud. The body of the car stayed where it was but the seats, floor and chassis raised up within the car. It was tragic. The Wolseley was finally released from its resting place using brute force and a Land Rover.

With such an extensively rotten and fragile hulk it was difficult to know where to begin, so he started small and removed the bumpers. The front valance then dropped off, leaving a snakeskin of glassfibre ‘repairs’ flapping in the wind.

After a few weeks Peter  was just about to give up and send the car for scrap until he arrived at the scrapyard and saw a stack of electrical conduit boxing. Peter transformed the conduit into new sills and crossmembers, then forged ahead with the restoration, working whenever his farm allowed.

Amazingly, the mechanicals were in reasonable order, and the interior, apart from the carpets, was salvageable after Peter had scraped off the cow dung.

In late 2011, the Wolseley flew through the MoT with only one verbal advisory: to coat the underside with black underseal. ‘I asked whether the black stuff was better than what I’d used,’ says Peter, who knew the tester well. ‘He said: “No, but it’ll hide tour welding, Peter.” It’s a good job we enjoy the banter up here,’

The very fact that this once rotten heap of a Wolseley was restored at all is an absolute wonder and a testament to Peter’s resilience.

Practical Classics Magazine



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