Finally! It’s over!

The renovation team have had their last weekend working on the air car. All in all we think we’ve done ourselves proud, even if one or two ambitious plans had to be modified!

The final weekend featured painting the leg black with silver highlights, covering the dashboard, installing the flashing lights and working out how the lid was going to sit on the base.

We’re ready to fly the air car down to Stoke for Lazlar Lyricon 3 where it will be featuring as a guest of honor before heading back to its forever home in Cambridgeshire.

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Shot glasses and ice cubes

This weekend was mostly spent trying to find readily available items that could be repurposed as buttons for the dashboard. After a couple of hours wandering through every isle in B&Q, Aldi and finally Tesco (and ruling out the plastic caps on sun cream, plastic egg trays and spice jars amongst other things) we settled on coloured plastic shot glasses.

Painted ice cube trays – just one more discarded idea.

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Unlike previous weekends, with no Em to spur us into “cutting some wood and seeing how it worked out”, we made a number of mock ups, drew some illegible diagrams and tried to work out how to make the dashboard curved before giving up and applying geometry.

Our dashboard – constructed from badly lined up trapeziums.

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Everything then got covered in foam. The centre console in a foam sheet wrapped in fabric and the leg, dashboard, floor, tarp and everyone’s hands in expanding foam. The expanding foam added texture and made everything look a bit less like it was constructed from gaffa and ply. We were aiming for an “uphosltered” look but we’ll see how that turns out next time…

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We started painting the dome that we’d spent so much time stripping, I think it looks pretty good. Once we get a couple more coats on it it should look just like the silver bauble we’re aiming for!

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Finally, we tried a paint test on the leg. Next time we should be able to wrap it all up and install the fairy lights!

Dashboard and leg….

Another air car build weekend has just gone by.  This one was considerably warmer and sunnier than our other meet ups – it was a nice change to be working in daylight without danger of losing extremities to frost bite!

We continued the seemingly endless job of stripping paint from the interior of the lower half.  Most of the paint and remains of the foam is gone now, and we think we can work around what’s left.  Doing this in the warm was quite confusing, as our experience thus far has been that the longer you leave the paint stripper on, the better it works – ideally 8 hours or more.  So when, just a couple of hours after the first coat was applied, we noticed it drying out and cracking, we had a small panic trying to remove the dried paint stripper!  Application of water seemed to help loosen it up, and we decided a second coat – this time leaving the air car in the shade, rather than full sunshine! – would be the best way to deal with the rest.  Remarkably that almost dried on us, too, despite not leaving it very long at all, so we went in with more water, kitchen scourers and fairy liquid, which seemed to be doing the job.  It looks like the application of further elbow grease and kitchen scourers will bring it up quite nice.  Then we can paint it all over again…

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In between layers of gunk we worked a little on the interior structure, adding the basics of a dash board to the central column we constructed last time.  Whoever decided to make this thing spherical has a lot to answer for, quite frankly – round things are not easy to cut at the best of times, especially when we don’t have a jigsaw, and are working with a circular saw (which, despite their name, don’t like cutting circles at all….).  Still, we’re quite pleased at how it’s coming along, and have a plan for the raised section of dash board – we couldn’t move on to building that, though, as we could only work on the interior when the lower half of the air car was free from gunk.  Turns out the two halves aren’t quite the same size (thanks, BBC!) so we can’t build inside the top half while cleaning the bottom half, then transfer it over, as per our original plan, as it won’t fit!

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To occupy ourselves the rest of the time we went on a scrapheap challenge, scavenging bits of pipe, an old tire, and even a defunked Christmas tree stand, with which to make a docking station / leg thing.  After some consideration we made a ply base which sits snugly inside the top of the tyre, attached the Christmas tree stand to the ply base with some wooden bracing, then attached the pipe to the christmas tree stand with expanding foam.  Once we’ve added some cut foam for shape & detail, then sprayed and painted it, we think it’s a pretty good approximation  for what you see in the series.

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Overall we were quite pleased with ourselves, given that on this occasion there were only 3 of us and we only had 1 day, so we celebrated as it got dark with a  very pleasant bonfire, where Dave got to indulge his pyromaniac tendencies….

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We only have a couple more weekends to go working on the air car before the con, so we need to get our skates on if it’s going to be ready in time!

Planning, shopping and carpentry

It’s at least 5 degrees out and still almost daylight at 17:30! Positively pleasant renovating conditions.

This weekend we’re continuing with the paint stripper (still! argh!) and starting the interior. A couple of us ventured out to get wood while everyone else sorted out the programming. After much discussion on the best way to support the air car whilst we work on it, during which we measured the diameter of every round thing that could plausibly be repurposed for this in B&Q (including a cement mixer), we remembered that tyres exist and in fact there were two in the yard already…

We’ve raided our hosts fabric supplies and started building a frame to sit in the base to form the structure of the central column and dashboard. We’re not planning on this being structural for people to be able to sit in but it should be sturdy enough to be sneezed near. Emma came up with a clever plan to slot the parts together for added stability whilst still being easy to transport.

The theme for this weekend was women bending over with power tools.

The paint stripping

It’s a cold, dark and wet weekend in January (there was snow!) and our team is back at work applying and removing yet more layers of paint stripper. Progress is slow, frustrating and requires more energy than most of us had available given the conditions. Thankfully we had an extra long meeting to put off starting and a couple of overly hungover committee members to avoid at base camp.

By the end of the weekend the base was significantly less silver than it was when it started and all of us had rekindled our hatred of expanding foam. Seriously, the stuff is evil. Who’s idea was it to use the air car as a tomato grower anyway?

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The removal of the foam

Our restoration team returned for a weekend of foam removal to get the air car back down to a base we can work with. They took to the expanding foam with a mixture of jack saws, scrapers, brooms and caffeine – 4 bin bags later the air car is looking much more like the acrylic hemispheres we had envisioned and barely resembles a garden feature.

We also got a bit of time to start stripping the silver paint out of the base. Thankfully we did some research on this first as it turns out most stripping chemicals would dissolve the acrylic. The sludge we’ve got instead just requires a lot of elbow grease to get the paint and the last of foam off. More stripping required!

The Air Car has Landed!

Having been rescued from its former occupation as a tomato cloche, then having spent a considerable length of time occupying a garage in Clacton, the Air Car has finally made it to its new, temporary home near Stoke where restoration work will take place.

On arrival the committee gave it a good scrubbing, to better assess its condition and ascertain what work needs to be done.  Quite a lot, it turns out, but it all seems manageable.  The plan is to organise one weekend each month between now and the convention when a group of us are free to work on it.  Hopefully that will be enough time to get it in ship shape before Lazlar Lyricon 3!  It’s looking quite a bit better already….

Further updates will appear here as work progresses….