All welding work is done
All the welding work is finally done. We ended up calling in the help of an expert to help us with the alignment of all the remaining panels and installing the aluminium skins of the door and boot lid. Everything is properly aligned now and the car at now waiting to get a primer and filler to make the bodywork perfectly smooth.
After that it will receive a primer to lock in the filler material. When that is all done, we can pick up the chassis to mount the engine, while the body shell will receive its final layers of paint on the inside: engine bay, inside of the doors, boot, inner fenders etc. Once that is all done the two can be put together again, after which the final paint on the outside can be applied. How will it look and how will it drive? In a couple of months we will know. Keep an eye on our website....
An extensive nose job
The nose is about the first thing you see when you meet a person. And if you hurt your nose it is hard to hide in day to day life. Not much different when it comes to cars. Our MGA was seriously damaged at the front. The fenders did not align properly with the centre front panel. In addition there was (again) lots of filler used to 'shape' the front area. The grid was also a bit deformed and did not align in the recess of the front panel. On one side that was relatively easy to fix using solder techniques. On the left-hand side things were much worse, and I ended up cutting out a piece and re-shaping it from a new piece of sheet metal. The rest can be solved with just a tiny bit of filler.
Learn from someone else's mistakes
The body shell received some attention from a professional car restoration expert Martin Dijkhof. He was able to smooth out the roof and do some repair work on the front of the body shell. Now it is our turn again. He helped us fitting the bodyshell to the chassis again. I am sure you are familiar with the experience: a hot and cold feeling at the same time. It did not quite fit. Measurements to the chassis revealed that the latter was the root cause of the bad fit. The right-front wheel was 2 cm out of alignment. This needed to be fixed to ensure a smooth ride once the car is completely done. Considering the thickness of the chassis, it is clear the chassis took quite a beating. Similar force was required to make it straight again.
Painful to realize that some of the clean paintwork would eventually have to be redone. The best we can do is learn from our mistakes. Better yet, learn from these mistakes valued reader. Before any painting, repairing, welding is done to the chassis and body shell, remove all the paint first and measure. The same happened to the wheels. One of the wheels is painted twice. Only because during the balancing of a newly painted wheel I found out it was bent and needed a lot of weight to get it balanced.
With the roof taken care of, we used soldering to straighten out small uneven patches. Looks like the rear of the car is getting into shape. We fitted the fenders and are pleased with the results. The fitting of the grill to the body is not quite there yet. We will have to get new chrome on the grill any ways, so we can make it to fit before the chrome job. The next step is to fit the remaining body parts to make sure everything lines up. Then we can painting the inside of the body shell and the fenders in the right colour.
There is still a long way to go. Just once in a while I scroll back to the pictures of the beginning with rusted and dented sheet metal at best and plain holes in the more severe cases. Right now the main colour is primer-gray with some remaining dents and a few panels that do not quite align, yet...
Battle on two fronts
With the body shell separated from the chassis, the restoration becomes a two-front battle: the chassis at home and the body shell at a professional car restoration expert Martin Dijkhof. The roof had many dents and I needed help from an expert to get the roof perfectly smooth. With the roof being as low as this MGA, it is first thing one sees when walking up to the car and so that has to be perfect. With the work I did on the roof the metal stretched a bit too much here and there. By heating it up, the metal can be shrunk back again.
The first thing the expert did did was removing the last bit of paint and rust. As much as possible we removed the old paint ourselves with sand paper and chemical means. The roof is particularly vulnerable and so that was already paint free when I got it to the body shop. On the front side of the car there is a a bit of lurking labour. It looks like the whole front is distorted during one of the many crashes this car has been involved in. Looking at the air duct panel below wrinkles are clearly visible. The best is probably to replace this panel altogether in order to undo the deformation.
In parallel Daan and I have been working on the chassis We mounted the fuel tank, suspension, the gearbox, and the driveshaft. The brake lines are renewed as well as the wiring. Finally we mounted the wooden floorboards. The edges of the boards are sealed with a polyurethane seam sealer. We are not planning to use this car in bad weather, but an occasional rain shower can not always be avoided: the car shall be driven.... The chassis is completely ready now. Once the body shell is ready, it can be fitted.
With the car in the building up phase, we speculate on the date we can take it for a spin. Well, to be perfectly frank: looks like we are closer to the finish than to the start. But if that also means closer to the finish in time, still remains to be seen. As much as we would like to put it on the road, we also enjoy the restoration process just as much... Time will tell.
How to eat an elephant
How to eat an elephant: One bite at the time. Vegetarian readers as well as environmentalists do not need to worry. I am not going to hunt and slaughter one of those magnificent creatures. It is just a way to express how the body work on the MGA is progressing. We already found numerous dents on all places of the fenders and body shell. Some of those dents were so bad that I decided to cut out a section, reshaped it on the bench or sometimes just to remake it altogether and weld it back in.
The A-posts both left and right were in bad and required some pieces of new metal. I sometimes used soldering tin to smooth out certain areas. The top left corner of the window frame had an interesting shape. We are still wondering how that was accomplished. In normal life filler is generally used to smoothed the surface prior to the paint coat, but in this case it was more like shaping. It looked like a sculptor has recreated the window frame.
The next bite concerned the fuel tank, but then the interior of it as the outside was blasted and painted already. In the old days fuel also preserved the tank and prevented corrosion. The modern day fuels are not that friendly to the sheet metal of the fuel tank. Coatings are available to seal the inside of the tank. There are several brands of tank sealants. I choose the Fertan Tapox epoxy sealant. Before applying the epoxy sealant several cycles of cleaning, rust remover and convert. I carefully followed the instructions. The summer sun helped to elevate the temperature of the tank to expedite the drying process which was further assisted by a little fan in the opening of the tank sender. In all several litres of chemicals are needed to complete the process. It is going to take another half a year before we can fill up the tank, which is may more than the cure time as recommended by Fertan. In a couple of years time I will have some first hand experience with Fertan. So if you think about purchasing it and you can wait until I gather the experience, send me a note in 2 years time....
When I'm writing this I am enjoying the warm summer evening contemplating the next bite in elephant. All that is left to chew on is near the front of the body shell. Again it was amazing how much filler was applied. Every time we remove the filler we are again shocked. But then again we are no longer surprised. The the good thing of doing such drastic repairs as a hobby is that one can use the free hours of the week to consider and plan the next bite.