Anyone that has or is devoting their time to undertaking a classic car restoration take WARNING !!
After 2 years of restoration on my 1948 MK IV the end was in sight with the final panel assembly in my garage. With precautions and safety observed at every stage in my workshop and testing of every part carefully undertaken and pre assembled on the work bench and re-tested back in situ in the car everything seemed perfect and OK. All the dangerous aspects like welding, grinding, chemicals, etc had been done and packed away. What could possibly go wrong?
Well expect the unexpected. My very last task of the restoration before it’s maiden drive was to connect the main battery lead ready for the big start up. By the time I had tightened the clamp to the terminal I started to smell that sickly toxic odour of burning electrics, and a glance through the front windscreen revealed smoke rising from the dashboard inside the car. By the time I had removed the cable back off the battery it was too late - the dash board was full of flames and the black smoke was choking me.
My saving grace was my fire extinguisher - one of several I have in my workshop and in my garage, but never to date had to use one. Well this time it literally was a life saver - not just for my beloved car, but for my home, and more importantly probably my life. Within 2 minutes the fire was out and I crawled out of the garage to fresh air.
So my advice and warning - make sure you have a good working fire extinguisher at arms reach all the time. You simply never know when you might need it.
I have today found what caused it. Well, I decided last week to fit under the dashboard (as my last job) an isolator key switch as an anti theft device. I had not realised that in fitting it back under the dash the choke cable must have pushed under one of the terminal’s rubber caps. The disaster was that the metal outer sheath of this choke cable (being effectively at car body earth) was up against technically the main connection to the battery feed - hence when I connected the battery cable and before I even went near the ignition switch there must have been sparks and heat generated against the wiring loom, and the resulting BBQ conditions.
So back to the stripping down stage once again and with a learning experience I don’t want to repeat but would like to warn others to take precautions no matter what you are doing.