Having finally finished refurbishing the replacement steering box for the van, I took that and a set of front ball joints down to a local garage with the van and got some professional work done for a change. As suspected the job was a lot easier for them than it would have been for me.
So new top ball joints have been fitted and the steering box swapped. Then it was discovered that the replacement box only wants to turn left and the adjuster won't take the slack out of the gears without locking up solid. So it got swapped back for the original again! That was a waste of time and money, as it seems was the rebuild kit for the box however I reckon that at least I know a little more about how the van works now so I'll clutch at that positive straw for now!
A replacement, properly rebuilt, steering box turns out to be available off the shelf from the states so one has been ordered and arrived today. I also ordered a parking brake cable and a rear brake flexi-hose at the same time but those jobs are on the list for later.
Whilst the van was at the garage I asked them to remove the fuel tank and investigate the constant smell of petrol that hangs around the back of the van. After some discussion of how best to deal with the seized fittings (break them off and fabricate new ones from threaded rod) they discovered that the entire fuel pump and level sender unit had come adrift from the tank and was just floating on the fuel. That explained a few things and one large Jubilee clip to replace the broken original solved the problem. Now I can fill the tank right to the top without having fuel spill out. At least I could if I was feeling rich, that's a 36-US gallon tank which would cost at least £130 to fill from empty at current prices. Eek!
I went to have a look at the white spitfire a week or two ago. It's not in a good state. Repairing it as it stands is certainly not a viable proposition. The cost would be many times what it would cost to simply replace it with a pristine car. A re-shell with a good second-hand shell is the other possibility however tracking one down is not easy and the cost would still probably be prohibitive. At the minute I'm thinking that it might be best to simply recover all the salvageable parts from it, get rid of the rotten shell and then decide what to do with the useful parts afterwards. Mechanically it is completely sound but there is no part of the body that hasn't suffered from the ravages of time and salt water.
Final decision has been postponed until after the current round of work on the van is complete and paid for. Then I'll study the finances and see what the plan is.