and sand (not mixed, of course). The petrol tank had been emptied and filled with water, the car battery was disconnected and the concrete floor was carefully swept to prevent sizzles from any sparks.

In fact, cutting away the old

rusting body panels with an angle grinder created spectacular spark effects that would make battle scenes in the Star Wars films pale into insignificance. The new inner wing repair panels had been made too short by the manufacturer, so I was forced to fabricate connecting plates from sheet steel, which I was more than happy to do just to show what could be done with some tinsnips, lots of heat and a hammer. Oh, and the expertise.

I was so looking forward to demonstrating my prowess with a welding plant, though the real icing on the cake would be refitting the premises to make the large walk-around store. What I lacked in hardware experience, I made up for with determination and a killer dose of enthusiasm. Oh yes, I felt like I was about to set the town on fire!

Smoke gets in your eyes The operation was underway: the panels were aligned and clamped, then I welded them in long, neat lines, being careful not to distort them. It was like magic. Then I noticed some extra rot at the bottom of the driver’s wheel arch. Now, one of the cars I’d been practising on, an old Austin, had needed its floor welding in the same place. The interior fittings had been protected by the double-skinned floor, so I did the same now, feeling like an expert. As I welded away, I paused to clear my goggles. But it wasn’t them that were misted – it was the whole bloody room, filled with smoke coming from the inside of the car where the interior was ablaze. Where was the boss when I needed him? He was in the shop serving. Just then his wife, who could panic for Britain, came through. “He’s setting fire to the shop!” she screamed. “I have it under control,” I called, grabbing the hosepipe and dousing the flames. “I’m calling the fire brigade,” and she shot back into the shop, telling the boss and all his customers of my irresponsibility.


“The whole room filled with smoke coming from the inside of the car...”

In a flash I envisaged the street blocked with a fleet of fire engines, and the upset – not only to our shop, but to all the others. It took only a few seconds to extinguish both the thought and the flames, and a further hour for the smoke to clear. That’s when I found that the Vauxhall’s floor wasn’t double-

skinned at all, and my welding had melted the fuse box, pedals, plastic trim and a spaghetti-strewn mass of wiring. I felt like a dog who’d just mistaken Colonel Gaddafi’s leg for a tree. This would take some sorting out and it looked as if my plans to extend would take longer than I had expected.

28 APRIL 2017 DIY WEEK 17

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