Vehicle Restorations

1957 - Vanguard Phase III and Vignale

Series III Vanguard Utility - Greg Campbell

Having finished restoring my 1927 Chevrolet truck in 2014 I found myself trawling through eBay ads looking for my next project. I was looking for something different, a vehicle you don’t see at every car show, and something with a roof and doors to keep my wife happy. I stumbled across an ad for a 1957 Vanguard ute, and after studying the photos carefully I decided that this was the one – it was the right price, it was complete looking, and it certainly needed some TLC. So it was off to Coolamon to pick her up and drag it back to Tamworth to start the resto.

Having no prior knowledge of Vanguards, other than remembering them as a young fella growing up, I found myself with a challenge on my hands. The vehicle was complete, with all of the important pieces intact, but our initial survey of the car unveiled a myriad of rust issues, obligatory rotten wood and what seemed to be an endless supply of red dust in every nook and cranny. Mechanically I was hoping that the seller’s promise that “it ran before it was parked up” was in fact true.

So my son Andrew and I set about “eating the elephant” starting with the tear down, carefully labelling all the pieces and taking as many reference photos as possible. Once stripped to its bones we were able to identify all the key areas of repair, and we started with sorting out the rust in the body. The worst areas were the cab floor and sills, but it was also found on other sections, so Andrew cut out all the affected areas and replaced it with fresh metal that he formed by hand. While he worked on that I was degreasing, paint stripping, prepping and painting the engine bay and chassis, using POR15 for a long lasting durable finish. It was also in this phase that I started to reach out to the wider Vanguard community by joining the STCC in search of knowledge and wisdom. This proved to be invaluable throughout the rest of the build, with countless emails and phone calls made to many of our great members who were only too happy to help.

Next we moved on to the tray and we decided that we’d take the more practical approach of steeling out the body rather than rebuilding it in timber. We also decided to move further away from tradition and replace the ply wood floor with Blackbutt tongue and groove floor boards. This created more work but the end result was well worth the extra effort. The interior of the tray has been painted grey true to the factory styling.

Engine and transmission were next to get some TLC, with all of the hoses, gaskets, belts etc. being replaced, and finished off with fresh paint. Once the engine and box were slotted back between the rails, the tail shaft was bolted back in and we felt like we were heading in the right direction. At the same time I removed all of the brakes and had them reconditioned and I replaced all the flexible hoses and shoes. While I was doing this, Andrew was busily working away at repairing the heavily rusted tailgate, which required much of the inner structure to be cut out and replaced, and a new skin made and welded in place.

It was then time to throw the old girl onto the trailer and take it up to Andrew’s shed so he could massage out the dents and straighten everything up before starting the painting process. We decided the only way to go was to strip her back to bare metal, uncovering anything lurking under the old paint so we could deal with it there and then. All the bare steel was coated in epoxy primer, which was then block sanded, then two coats of HS Primer was applied, and then block sanded again, making sure it was as close to perfect before the topcoats of our selected shades of green were applied. As each layer was applied I could see the finished car getting closer, but we were still a long way off before I could jump in and drive it. Throughout this process I learned that my son has incredible patience, and he won’t accept just good enough – he spent countless hours hammering metal getting it right, and then spent many late nights block sanding the panels getting them flat and straight… panels that I thought were already flat and straight!!

Once the colour was on, our attention turned to the interior of the cab. Prior to sending it off to Michael Talbot at Trim FX for trimming, we applied Dynamat to the floor and roof to help reduce road noise and improve comfort levels on the long trips. At Trim FX a new cream hood lining was installed, the seat, door trims and kick boards were covered in cream and green vinyl, and custom made vinyl floor covering was fitted up. In addition to that we installed a modern radio for some tunes to cruise to, but we hid the radio out of sight in the glove box.

We were finally up to the last bits and pieces to get her on the road – installing glass, door handles, exterior trim, lights, chrome etc. It felt like this final five percent took twenty percent of our total time to get done, but we got there in the end. After passing inspection for rego with flying colours it was finally time to get it on the road and stretch its legs, so we pointed it towards the Moonbi Ranges and hoped for the best. She purred like a kitten, sat nicely on the road and stopped on a dime, but unfortunately she got a little hot and it was back to the shed to sort out the cooling. Nothing serious and once the parts arrived we had it back on the road. The very last thing to do was to install the bonnet emblem, the original was cracked and well weathered so Andrew made a mould and recast a new badge and hand painted it. It was like putting the cherry on the cake, a fitting way to finish the project off.

So after nearly three years of hard work I am proud to be the owner of this very special old Phase III ute. My many thanks go out to all those in the club who have helped me along the way, and special thanks goes to Michael Talbot at Trim FX, but most of all I have to thank my son Andrew for everything he has done in making this happen, without him I don’t think my dream would have been realised. This project has reinforced the idea that with a little bit of knowledge, plenty of hard work, and a lot of tenacity, you can achieve anything – it’s almost hard to believe that this car is the product of a retired Policeman and his Accountant son playing in the backyard shed.

Greg Campbell - 16 March 2017

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  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility
  • 1957 Vanguard Phase III and Vignale
    1957 Series III Vanguard Utility