If a truck with a severely bent chassis came into J H Sparshatts at Bognor Bridge , Chichester, it was one of my tasks to strip the truck down to its basic components. This meant the cab and body had to come off and sometimes the half inch diameter rivets holding a cross members had to be drilled out.
To remove a rivet meant getting out the “Gut Buster”. This was a very heavy duty electric hand drill manufactured by Wolf. It was very powerful and had earned its reputation as a gut buster as it often jammed while drilling and instead of the drill bit rotating - you did !
The on-off switch was also faulty so when drill jammed, you had to rotate instead of the drill and wait for the electric plug to pull out of the wall. It was no use calling for help because if you did, you would only draw attention to your predicament which would result in lots of laughter from the rest of the mechanics.
We didn’t drill through the whole length of a rivet, just the head which was removed with an almighty blow from a hammer and chisel. The remains of the rivet was then punched out.
Once the chassis was bare and up on axle stands, we dropped plumb lines down from the spring hangers and made a mark with chalk on the greasy floor. Then using a chalk line and with a ping of the string criss criss-crossing from mark to mark, you could eventually see on the floor where the chassis was out of line.
Then we called the experts. These were two old guys from a company called Barnard and Milton but to us they were known as Barnyard and Stilton. They arrived in an old Bedford flatbed truck, loaded up with oxygen and acetylene bottles, chains, Porta Powers and some very big sledgehammers.
The oldest of the two, who was obviously in his late seventies, walked round the chassis to determine where it was out of true. Eventually he made a chalk mark on the chassis and his ‘boy’ who must have been sixty odd, attached a chain to a Porta-Power hydraulic ram and started to apply some considerable force….
Then out came the oxy-acetylene torches and the chassis got a considerable dose of heat at another place marked once again with chalk.
Finally the oldest member of the team, availed himself of a very large sledgehammer and gave the chassis a resounding whack opposite the Porta-Power and nowhere near the heat.
Ping! - The bend in the chassis was now gone ….
During this procedure, not a word was spoken between man and boy as we watched these two craftsmen in awe.
Tools, chains and the Porta-Power were loaded back on to the Bedford and off they went - job done.
This all took place during my Apprenticeship which commenced in 1961. You can read more on my Blog at https://www.twala.co.uk/blog/2019/6/the-apprenticeship