By Amanda Stringfellow @amanda_l_s

A RETIRED motor engineer has spent 15-years transforming a rusty wreck into the 99-year-old vintage car of his dreams

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Videographer / Director: Jack Stevens
Producer: Amanda Stringfellow
Editor: Kyle Waters, Jack Stevens

Terry Cleife in his American La France restoration

Terrence Cleife, bought the pieces of a 1916 American LaFrance in 1998 – and spent hundreds of hours restoring the vintage car to its former glory.

On the road: Terry's machine can reach up to 70mph on the road

Terry, 71, has completed a painstaking piece-by-piece restoration of the saloon car - that had been dismantled and was lying as a pile of scrap on the floor of a barn.

Terry dragged the remains of the car to a make-shift shelter in the field behind his house where he spent hours reconstructing the ancient mechanics.

Terry created the monocle windscreen from brass

The pre-war car’s missing parts were welded by Terry out of bronze and cast iron to match the vehicles original chassis, and the engine completely re-assembled.

Terry said: “I saw one completely in pieces and I bought it, it took me around 15-years to restore it part time.

“It must have been hundreds and hundreds of hours of work.

Terry has spent 15-years transforming the rusty wreck into the vintage car of his dreams

“It was completely dismantled, a heap of scrap metal on a barn floor but I bought it anyway - I threw caution to the wind and I’m glad that I did.”

The retired motor engineer from Hampshire has a passion for old and unusual vehicles.

The authentic restoration includes a brass horn

At the age of 16 Terry became an apprentice in his father's garage and developed his love of cars - owning a Morris 8, an MG TC, a Jowett Jupiter a Lancia Aprilia and a 1938 BMW 328.

Many years later, with his children grown up, Terry set out to buy another pre-war car, but with prices sky rocketing he settled on buying the dismantled and incomplete LaFrance.

Terry's biggest challenge was building the vehicle’s missing parts from scratch

The mechanic believes that the car probably came into the country in pieces and became an abandoned project as a lot of pieces had been damaged in storage or completely lost.

The pre-war car’s missing parts were welded by Terry out of bronze and cast iron to match the vehicles original chassis

Terry started off with rebuilding the chassis, made of Krupp nickel-chrome steel, which despite living outside for most of its life was miraculously rust free.

He painted the chassis and rebuilt the suspension before moving into his garage for the winter and starting on the engine.

Terry dragged the remains of the car to a make-shift shelter in the field behind his house where he spent hours reconstructing the ancient mechanics

But his biggest challenge was building the vehicle’s missing parts from scratch.

With the oil pump’s gears missing, Terry whittled new ones into shape using solid bronze and a lathe.

Terry said: “The gear for the distributor and oil pump was missing so I had to make one of those.

“One of the pistons was too big so I had to machine that down and make a complete set of piston rings out of modern day brake disks.

Terry saved all the charcoal over the winter from the wood stove and melted scrap brass down using his own home-made furnace

“I cast the wind screen frame in brass, I saved all the charcoal over the winter from the wood stove and melted scrap brass down using my own home-made furnace.”

The mechanic believes that the car probably came into the country in pieces and became an abandoned project as a lot of pieces had been damaged in storage or completely lost

After 15-years of hard graft the marathon re-build is now complete and Terry spends his weekends showing off the open-top car on the roads.  

Like most cars of its era, the LaFrance starts by Terry turning a handle located at the front of the car.

With its worn red leather seats and brass trimmings, the huge machine is a relic of a past time – but still keeps up with modern traffic .

Like most cars of its era, the LaFrance starts by Terry turning a handle located at the front of the car

Terry said: “ The car is a bit of a beast to start.

“It’s rather heavy to steer when parking but on the drive it’s actually quite light.

“The pedals are different to a modern day car – it’s hard to swap without thinking about it.

“When I’m out on the road a lot of road users wave and flash their lights, sometimes people wave as they come past.”

The car can easily go 60mph on the road but can be uncomfortable for passengers, who need to wear goggles dues to the exposed seats.

Some of the parts of the Le France as Terry bought it in 1998

Terry said: “It’s very pleasant to drive, it’s a bit like riding a motorbike or flying a plane, the steering is very direct.

“I’m getting on a bit now so one day I will sell it - but I’m not ready yet.

“My family have been very supportive, they all like going out in it.

 “You can have a really good day out for about £6 which will take you about 12-miles."