Thursday, 30 July 2009


Sterling Automotive are now "trade supporting" members of the Federation of Historic Vehicle Clubs".

We are delighted to be supporting the federation who act in the interest of over 400 individual clubs, nearly 30 seperate museums and more than 250,000 classic car owner members. The president is Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Soda anyone?

The best way to fully assess corrosion under the paintwork on a classic car is of course, to completely remove the paint and look directly at the steel.

This sounds straightforward and there are a number of ways to get paint off but each one has its drawbacks.

Shot blasting generates heat that can easily distort old metal. It is also very inaccurate and will destroy any chrome plastic and rubber in the vicinity.

Chemical dipping will strip the paint off but it will strip everything else off as well, so the entire car has to be disassembled. Also, the chemical agent can get trapped in pockets and can reappear after the car has been refurbished, stripping off the new paint finish as it goes.

Sterling Automotive uses a technique known as soda blasting to remove paint. It involves blowing a jet of soda (yes, it really is the same soda that is used in cooking) at the paint under low pressure. It is so gentle that it creates almost no heat. Furthermore, the car does not even need to be stripped at all. The operator can carefully blast right up against chrome, rubber and plastic trims without causing any harm.

Unlike other techniques, very small areas can be singled out for taking back to the substrate. You can choose to remove rust, filler and fibreglass etc or leave it in place for dealing with during the repair process.

Another bonus with soda blasting is that it is so gentle when correctly done, that it does not break the surface tension of the bodywork steel, so the car can be left for weeks or even months in its bare state without rusting. In fact, because soda is completely water soluble, when we strip a car using this medium, the first thing we do is rinse it with clean cold water and leave it to air dry.

We are displaying a 1966 Mercedes 250S that has had the lower half soda blasted, at the 2009 Classic vehicle show at Newbury Racecourse on August 9th. We would be very happy to discuss the technique with any visitors to the show.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Ethanol in petrol in France

Thinking of taking your classic vehicle into Europe? Well, you need to take care when you refill your car in France and be sure to check the quantity of Ethanol in the unleaded fuel.

The maximum quantity of Ethanol in unleaded fuel in the UK is 5% which is fine for the vast majority of older engines. In France, they have introduced a new 'environmentally friendly' bio fuel called 95-E10 which contains 10% ethanol. That is enough to cause harm to engines as late as year 2000 and can (and does) cause older engines to completely fail to start.

Full story at

Saturday, 18 July 2009


We offer a refurbishment service for classic and prestige car owners who want to know that "a little more attention to detail" is going to be paid. We can take any painted finish and improve it to whatever standard a discerning client would be seeking.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Workshop update

The camper restoration project has been moving nicely toward completion and now has the top coats of paint on. What a stunning colour combination! You can see the progress of this job as a slideshow on our website at or the individual photo’s on our Photobucket site at

We put the engine into the 450SLC Mercedes and surprisingly it fired up on the first turn of the key. A bit of the usual SL Merc’ fettling here and there, such as repaint the air filter box and sew a small patch onto the drivers seat bolster and the car is now so good that I’ve decided to keep it as my own daily driver. Check out the five star wheels.

We’ve got a high top bay window surf bus for MOT repairs, a quick tidy up of some minor rust spots and a respray. The van will be available on Ebay for sale at the end of the work.

One of the nicest 911’s (993) you will find is in for further enhancement. A few rather nasty stonechips let the rest of the immaculate bodywork down, so we are stripping and repainting the front bumper wings and bonnet. Progress pictures on this job on our photobucket pages at

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Show time.

Sterling Automotive have committed to taking space at the forthcoming “17th Annual Classic Vehicle Show” on August 9th 2009. The show, which is held each year at Newbury Racecourse raises funds for Leukaemia Research.

I displayed the Porsche 356a last year and it was very well received, so we have decided to put a proper display together this year to promote the restoration business and will be taking some interesting cars that we have worked on, including the Porsche 356C and an Aston Martin DB4. In addition to this, we plan to take a couple of ongoing projects. I personally think that amidst a sea of polished classics, it would be nice for visitors to also take a glance around a couple of vehicles that are stripped and part way through production.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Gear change

Keen to impress, I was making sure that budgets were stuck to and expectations were exceeded on any job I undertook (as it always should be).

I got a call from a man who owned a rather rare 1960 Humber Super Snipe Estate that had been sat in his garage for 15 years (it turned out that he was actually the chairman of the Humber owners club and felt that maybe he ought to have the car out on the road again). Having looked over the 356C, he agreed to allow me to carry out the extensive restoration work on his ‘poor mans Rolls’.

Next project came from my rather brazen promotion to the VW community on the Volkszone forum. A chap had a couple of bay window campers and one of them was to be his parents' retirement camper. Unfortunately, the restoration required was so huge that nobody wanted to take the task on. I however was only too pleased to get stuck into it and we agreed a very reasonable price.

On the first anniversary of Sterling Automotive being formed, the camper is progressing nicely and I have a good flow of jobs Ok, cash is still as critical as it ever was, profit margins are tight and I still can’t be sure where the next job will come from but you know…. I’m really enjoying my work.
Slowly picking up speed

Forward track to the Autumn and I’d restored the 356a, sold it for a healthy profit, had carried out some small maintenance jobs for some local customers and had enough cash to pay for some of the tools that I’d been helping myself to.

Looking for my next project, I stumbled across… guess what… another Porsche 356 but a 356C this time.

This was clearly going to be a big job as the car needed some seriously major welding. The decision was made to go for it and I set about a full nut and bolt strip down. I new it was going to be bad but once the paint had been taken off back to bare metal, it was clear that I was either going to have to break the car for spares or produce a collectors standard masterpiece. I opted for the latter. It paid off because, despite it nearly ruining me financially, I finally sold the car some 9 months later for top money and made another healthy profit. Phew!

Clearly, when you’re working on your own, you can’t have all your eggs in one basket and I needed day jobs to come in while I was progressing the two Porsche’s, and I did all I could to get anybody that I thought would have even the slightest interest in classic cars to come and see what I was working on. I spent an awful lot of time trying to get my rapidly expanding website up the Google listings and showing off photo’s of ongoing work. Gradually, I was getting more and more day jobs coming through the door.
Life, the universe and the year one, in a nutshell.

Having taken the rather obvious decision to go back to what I do best and try to rebuild a business, some issues immediately raise their heads. Sure, I can still do the work but issue one… no cash. Getting back on the tools again is the easy bit. Buying the tools and then having the working capital to do the work, well that’s made a bit more challenging by the wiping out of the car transport company, resulting in 7 years of hard work wasted, 25 decent peoples jobs lost and about a ¼ million pounds all gone overnight.

So in for a penny… the very comfortable 540 BMW went off to Ebay, out came the credit cards and voila, enough cash to keep me in minimum wage for a few months.

Issue two… no customers and no way of going out to get customers. At this point, I was on the receiving end of a bit of good luck for a change. We had a customer who owned a 1958 Porsche 356a that I had sold to him 15 years previously and he brought it to the garage once a year for it’s MOT test and then put it away again until the next MOT was due. 30 miles a year might sound like it’s good for a car, but actually the engine was starting to tire and the body was showing signs of age. He asked me if I wanted to buy it and I offered him every last penny that I had (there goes the working capital). Yeah! A car to work on.