30 Days of Building a Car

Name: Bart Koopman

Occupation: Engineering Student

Website:  http://mijnimp.fl79.nl 

How we met: Bart is the eldest son of Sjaak and Lia Koopman whose cheese farm I worked on in Holland as part of my 30 Days adventure.  I had a wonderful time with the Koopman’s talking, laughing and making loads of Edam cheese. While I was eating my weight in cheese, Bart had a project of his own going on. He was restoring a car from scratch and filming the whole thing on a time lapse so that his friends and family could track the car’s transformation.

Take a look how he did:

Eighteen months ago, while I was hanging in front of the television watching one of the many tv-series a Dutch student has to watch, I enthusiastically answered a phone call saying: “Of course, I would love to!” A new hobby had just been born.

It was my girlfriend’s father, Piet, who has posed the question: “Bart, you offered to help me with my Imp, why not make it your own project?”

From that day on, I’ve been restoring a Hillman Imp from the sixties.

Firstly I have to admit that I’m absolutely not a car fanatic; I’m barely able to recognize the cars passing by on the highway. But I love mechanical systems, ingenious apparatus and fancy mechanisms, which are the main reasons I ended up studying mechanical engineering.

This interest together with the magnitude of the task before me make me grasp the opportunity enthusiastically. It was going to be a challenge.

In the summer of 2011 I started to work on the project. My main goal was to get it on the road as fast as possible.  The plan of attack was simple: 1. Replace only those parts, which were broken or worn out too much, 2. Quickly threat the rusty pieces with a rust converter, And 3. Get the engine running.

As you would probably guess, this is not what happened. When you’re stripping a car like this, all the pieces passes through your hands and the body gets more and more naked every day. You start to convince yourself that every piece should be perfect when it’s mounted back on the car. But before you’re able to reach that point you’ll need a magnificent body as well. And since it’s stripped already you’re able to patch up the body until it’s as new.

Every morning I was working on the car together with a friend, Michiel, for a few weeks. We managed to clean everything, fix some of the bodywork, restore the suspension, revive the radiator and replace the brake system. Meanwhile I joined “The Imp Club” from the UK. Although I didn’t get the Imp on the road that summer it was a joy.

From September up to June I was back in Delft continuing my life as a student. In the beginning of 2012 I made my first miles in a real Hillman Imp (although technically it’s a Sunbeam Californian, most people wouldn’t see the differences by night). Together with Piet and his car we participated in a night rally, lasting from 6pm until 5am the next morning. That night I learned (and experienced) that the car, which originally was built for grocery shopping, is well suited for rallies like this: Lightweight, it has a rear engine and excellent handling. Although the Imp was the car for the job, we didn’t manage to win the challenge since it was impossible to decode the instructions. But next year…

In May this year the Imp Club decided to visit The Netherlands, resulting in a total of around 50 Imps from the UK and Holland coming together. It was great to meet other “Impers” and to chat, laugh and drink together.  The Scotch appeared to be useful; since most roads we took were very sinuous.

This summer I managed to pick up the workings, unfortunately without Michiel. Luckily Piet was willing to help me some days. The rust in some of the body parts had worn out the steel so much that it was required to replace big parts of the bodywork. This was a cumbersome job and still isn’t finished up to today. Nevertheless I’ve made some progress this year and I’m sure we’ll reach the finish within a few years.

In order to keep track of what I’ve done and to keep in contact with everybody interested, I’ve set up a blog containing videos and stories of every day I worked on the car. At the same time it forms a diary containing all of the progress. Interested in my project? Visit http://mijnimp.fl79.nl and do not forget to leave a message in the guestbook.

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