1939 Wraith Interior Restoration
Ypsilanti, Michigan

Part I - Disassembly

We are embarking on a new adventure - a joint venture with Bruce Phillips of LMR Automotive.
The interior of this 1939 Rolls-Royce Wraith (WEC 40) was redone to a relatively pedestrian standard a few decades ago.
We're going to redo the interior with the proper materials to the original standard,
paying particular attention to the details and hours that make the difference.

We're at it again working on our old friend WEC40. Speaking of "old" (in the longtime sense) friends, Dave C. is seen here wailing away on the driver's door panel.

Back in November, Dave and I removed all the interior veneer, which I have been streadily refinishing.

Roy Margenau reveneered the dash (shown unfinished) along with a few other select pieces that sustained water damage over the years.

A few random thoughts on the veneer:

A dremel tool with a coarse grit drum can be very handy to trim back the edges on a complex piece such as this.

Roy has a vacuum press which made the reveneering process fairly efficient.

Unlike postwar Rolls-Royce, the door caps are removed before the panels. The door caps are held in place by these hand made brass plates with slots in them. After you get the window frame out of the way, just lift up and out.

Last month, my friend Steve Ball took delivery of a Hooper-bodied Wraith Saloon (WMB 35). Bruce and I went over to see if we could learn anything from his interior which is highly original.

The rear seat is similar to the way my Park Ward Touring Limousine was originally with pleated seat back and plain bottom cushion all trimmed in wool.

My car is currently trimmed in Naugahyde.

Another interesting photograph.

The Hooper is piped in wool. Based on some forensic analysis of another Wraith belonging to Gary Rock which is a Park Ward Enclosed Limousine virtually identical to mine, the wool seats and trim were piped in leather.

Door panels are similar but the "monkey fist" door pulls are not a feature found on mine.

We settled on what the original interior color scheme was, and matched that up with current offerings from Bill Hirsch.

Wilton II Carpet - black in front, taupe in back

Leather seats and door panels in front - black

Wool seats and door panels in back - T/BP-2 taupe

Leather trim in back - chocolate HS-891

Wool headliner - RX/T-4 taupe

The Hooper employs leather that matches the front seating to bridge the gap between the instrument board and windshield rail.

I am not sure yet what the original should be on my car.

March 28, 2012

Bruce and his son Brad have made quick work of removing an extensive amount of "stuff" from the interior of the Wraith.

Rear compartment is getting there, those rear quarter light frames still need to be removed.
The left front seat back is harboring three mouse skeletons. Glad I was not the one that found them.

Prior to removal, I carefully recorded the position of all of the hold down hardware in the tool drawer which slides under the front seat from the passenger side.

Most of these tools are missing, finding all of them will be a project unto iteself!

Dr. Ball's car, shown a few slides back, has a complete tool kit. I am jealous.

The rear window has an (inoperative) electric window blind. The execution (of the work done in the Seventies) leaves a bit to be desired.
The "guts" of the occasional seats that fold out of the division are very well-preserved and original.

The electric division utilizes a reversing relay shown in the top center of the photo (cover removed).

This was rewired at some point, but much of the original wiring remains in place even though it is disconnected.


Because this is a coachbuilt feature, it does not appear on the chassis wiring diagram. It took me a solid six hours of testing and thinkingto develop a solid understanding on how to rewire this unit and the controls in both front and rear compartments to safely perform the intended function.
This is a close-up of the reversing relay.
I recall that there is a leak in the fill pipe. This will be addressed before the car goes back together.
The Clayton heater, located in the division, will be removed, cleaned and tested.
This is Bruce in his natural habitat.
The seat cushion springs are plated in copper.
The firewall is insulated. That high-mounted small pedal in the center of the photo is for the Bijur pump.

The rear quarter lights are removed from the outside in. First, the glass is removed: piano hinge at front and latch at the rear. Next remove the felt from the wooden frame, then identify and remove the wood screws holding the wooden frame to the body.

April 5, 2011

I plan to go on a Randy's Roadhouse BBQ run with friends tomorrow, so I blew the cobwebs off of the trusty '73 Silver Shadow in preparation while Brad works away in the background.

Brad has much of the headliner removed. I am relieved to see that the framework is in excellent shape.

April 7, 2012

The rear window blind motor is inoperative because it has fallen from it's moorings. It is accessible through the opening at the lower left of the photo. The blind is the original but mildewed and moth-eaten.

Bruce and I spent the afternoon sorting through the removed interior materials.

The black leather on top of this pile is a piece of the original Connolly leather and was found on the left side of the front seat bolster.

Genuine Naugahyde: clearly not original.
Poorly executed corner. Yikes. Not original for sure.
This A-post trim strip was an interesting find. Underneath the black vinyl: the origninal black leather and the wooden trim strip with the design number of the body penciled in.

April 24, 2012

Most of the floorboards are out of the car to be repaired as needed. You can see where the cross brace of the massive welded box section frame comes together under the front seat.

This panel that covers the chassis frame at the base of the driver's door is badly delaminated and will be replaced.

This area is ordinary covered by carpet.

We removed the windshield. Bruce is inspects the wooden A-pillars. The aluminum sheet is cracked at the top and bottom. This is because the joints became wet at some point and the hide glue let go.

We should be able to repair these joints which should go a long way towards elimating a source of noise over large bumps.

May 1, 2012

Brad has pretty much gutted the interior at this point. The red material on the underside of the roof decking is a water vapor barrier.

We're going to get the exposed areas of the chassis cleaned up before we get too much further. Many of the interior materials we plan to use will not take too kindly to grease and grime.

This evening's project is to remove the brass strips that cover the edges of the roof decking.

There are exactly one jillion slot head brass countersunk screws holding them in place.

Not quite as bad as I thought.

May 2, 2012

Bruce has many of the interior pieces spread out in various states of repair. Some of the plywood pieces with minor delamination are repaired with wood glue. Soft rotted areas in hardwood are treated with Minwax Wood Hardener.

That's Matty on the right. Bruce and I are very excited for him! He's starting his MFA at Cranbrook this fall.

May 6, 2012

I removed the outer layer of the roof decking. The whole point of redoing this part of the car is making it water tight. Clearly the fabric between the outer and red inner layer is badly water marked. Clearly our actions are justified.

Finally the structure is completely exposed and still appears to be in remarkably good shape. The only subpar item is the outrageous number of staples that need to be removed that held the fabric in place. The original fabric would have been held in with about a third as many tacks.

Our itnrepid stapler from the late Seventies may have been suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

May 9, 2012

Bruce and Brad got the rest of the staples out of the roof and returned to the rear compartment to complete the disassembly process.

Cleaning is next, followed by some body wiring. That Clayton heater needs to come out as well.

With so much of the chassis exposed, now is the time to clean and refinish it.

Many of the materials we will be using, the wool in particular, are not fond of road debris, grease and oil. Having a clean working environment will reduce the potential for costly rework as things come back together.

With the roof decking removed, lighting the interior is a much easier task.

As with the cleanliness, replacing the roof decking may seem like overkill for an interior restoration, but providing a watertight home for the interior materials will prevent subsequent damage and heartbreak.

The floor board on the left has been preserved with the wood hardener. The one on the right goes right over the fuel tank and needs to be remade.
With judicious use of 3/8 marine plywood, #17 5/8 nails and Titebond II wood glue, we have a new piece about two-thirds complete in this photo.
Similiarly, Brad knocked out this replacement for the driver's door panel from 3mm marine grade plywood.

Here's the fuel tank piece complete with mating piece I made that goes under the rear seat cushion. The test fitting is fine - Bruce and Brad will finish coat the parts and add seals to the edges.

Bruce is very adamant that every board have good seal integrity so that the interior will be free from dust and moisture.

All of this may seem like overkill but the end result will be a driveable car rain or shine: not just a static fair weather show piece.

These are the last two items to be removed: the front passenger floor board and front toe board.

May 20, 2012

The driving season is upon us with a resultant loss in productivity on our latest project. Richard Vaughan and I met up with friends in Lansing to go on a little tour of Southwest Michigan...

June 3, 2012

A week later, we were back in the same general area to attend the CCCA Grand Classic at the Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corners. This Wraith was an unexpected surprise.

June 6, 2012

Meanwhile, Bruce, Brad and Mike have been busty cleaning and removing the last of the damaged wood.

The only thing that separates the luggage shelf and rear seatback is a 3/8-in piece of plywood.
Mike has the rear underbody items cleaned and ready to be repainted.
The front underbody items are in a similar state.

June 10, 2012

This rear seat back will be one of the last items I need to make. I need to order some more 3/8 marine grade plywood. This piece is 56 inches wide.

Note the window shade motor on the left side of the photo.

June 18, 2012

Not working on the Wraith this week. The Michigan contingent of the Rolls-Royce Owners' Club is headed for Louisville, Kentucky and the RROC National Meet.

I brought the Bentley S2 and here were are shown at a respectable speed with good oil pressure and temperature barreling down US127 in Ohio.

June 19, 2012

This coconut cream pie served at Kurtz Restaurant in Bardstown was out of this world. The restaurant is: about half way between the Jim Beam and Maker's Mark distilleries: we visited both.

The latter was much more scenic. Maker's Mark was introduced by T. Willliam Samuels and his wife Margie in 1959.

Margie is the one that came up with the label, squareish bottle and wax dripping.

Although all the old methods are still in place. Maker's Mark is now part of the same Illinois-based corporate monolith that owns Jim Beam and dozens of other brands.

June 23, 2012

I entered my Bentley in the touring class for S-series Bentleys and derivatives at the show.

I was surprised and delighted to win third place.

This S2 Continental won first place in my class and deservedly so. Absolutely stunning.

June 27, 2012

Progress was made while I was gone. Mike disassembled the driver's door and applied wood hardener to the structure.

Brad has been busy building up the seat cushions. The springs have been painted with POR-15 to prevent corrosion. Then each individual layer is added and hand stitched in place.

June 30, 2012

For the upcoming week, the plan is to rewire the body and thus it has been moved to the four post lift.

July 3, 2012

Yesterday was spent taking inventory and ordering parts while Mike cleaned the underside of the chassis.

This plywood panel conceals much of the body wiring that runs from the instrument panel to the rear compartment. It runs in one continuous piece from the C-pillar to the A-pillar.


There's really no way to get the panel in one piece, so the plan is to cut away only the rotten section to allow access between the frame and body.

After scribing it with a straight edge, I cut it with a die grinder with a cutting wheel. Didn't smoke too much.

There are major sections of cloth-covered five conductor wire running from front to back. As far as I can determine, this is not available anymore.

July 5, 2012

Rhode Island Wiring Service Inc. is wiling to make up the wire for me in the right colors but they can't treat a 25 foot run of it to prevent the outer covering from unraveling when cut to length. I will have to wait to order until I get the old wire bundles out and can send them detailed measurements.

When the Wraith was still in service, filling up at a gas station would generate all kinds of fumes in the rear compartment.

After removing the fill pipe by undoing the hose clamp at the bottom and...

...the castellated nut...
...on the fill door,

the culprit is shown here: a badly deteriorated hose coupling.

For the lunatic fringe that think Ethanol in fuel is a bright idea, here's a lovely example to the contrary.

Do not taunt me, I've done fuel systems for a living at two automotive OEMs for almost two decades. I will bury you in SAE papers. Seriously. This is nasty shit.

Here's the elusive Brad, adding yet another layer of material to the seat cushions.

July 6, 2012

Since I avoided any real work on the wiring all week, I spent my last day of the week removing the heater in the division.

The coolant connections are accessible from underneath.

After marking all of the electrical connections, I attached the fan motor to a spare battery and lo and behold it works!


Now cleaned up, I need to paint its enclosure in the division and reinstall with fresh wiring and heater hoses.

This is a backing plate installed in the C-pillar to which the upper door hinge is through bolted to the threaded holes near the center of the part.

My first prototype on the left has a dimensional error, I'll have to do a little bit better to get everything to line up.

July 14-15, 2012

Matty got me some nice mahogany scraps from which to make some of the hardwood interior underpinnings. Here I have tacked the old piece to the mahogany in order to duplicate the taper on the table saw.

The Clayton heater has been readied with new wire, heater hose and Jubilee clamps.

This is the pot metal gearcase to the Piper motor that powers the rear window blind.

It had stress cracks all over it and the output shaft was no longer perpendicular to the motor's axis of rotation.

Bruce spent quite a bit of time slathering JB Weld all over it. This may work - the alternative is to make a machine a new one. At least we will be able to assess whether or not the rest of the motor is ok before proceeding.

Brad's progress continues on the seat cushions. Now he's added a layer of muslin.
Bruce has also been working on a Ferrari. Door panel looks pretty cool.
Apparently there was an electrical fire! Apparently the five wire bundle that controls the division from the rear seat charred the bottom inside of the left front door...
as well as the nearby body structure.

The forward half of the wiring had been replaced with this red modern wire.

Speaking of which, I custom ordered replacements for these large 12 ga. five wire bundles in the original colors as well as some 50 ft. spools of 12 ga. and 14 ga. black cloth covered wire - all from Rhode Island Wiring Service Inc.

July 21, 2012

Ok. I admit it. What started out as a new interior has mutated into a rather involved restoration. You've got to stop somewhere though, right? Thus, I have been resisting the temptation to take the fuel tank out.

So driving over today, I asked myself the following question: what's the right thing to do? Yeah, take it out. Given the improved access to clean the rest of the frame and how much better the tank will look cleaned and painted separately it's a "no brainer".

Apparently this decision brought good karma. First, the drain plug came out without protest. The amount of detritus captured on the top of the plug was pretty much all that there was.
The fuel level sender receives of fine gauge four wire bundle. Since the individual wires are soldered place and the bundle will be replaced, I cut the wires so that the detailed soldering can be fone on the bench.
The tank is out. The tank strap hardware cooperated fully (more evidence of good karma) with a little bit of PB Blaster and some very gentle persuasion.

Now the last large swath of the underbody can be cleaned and painted.

Here's the cool part. I didn't realize the car had a rear anti-roll bar. The bar that runs across the middle of the photo is apparently a torsion bar that connects the shafts of the two knee action shock absorbers. Doesn't look like a roll bar but that's exactly what it does.

July 22, 2012

An $18 kiddie pool is an excellent way to go crazy cleaning a large object without making a huge mess.

The fuel level sensor is more interesting mechanically than a modern one that simply places the resistive element at the pivot point. This little gearset transfers the motion of the float arm (l) to a rotating shaft (r) which runs up to the resistive element at the top of the tank. (And shown three photos back.)
Making progress...
First coat of POR-15 on all but one side. This is a steel tank, by the way.

July 24, 2012

This is the windshield sill that Roy veneered for me. Trimming the veneer has been problematic as compared to the instrument board because the transitions between veneer and straight grain are very shallow.

A veneer saw, six inch metal straight edge and a great deal of patience seem to be doing the trick.

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