Sunday, June 22, 2008

Running Again!

I've been working on the car pretty much non stop now for the last couple of days! I've got lots of minor things done and finally got around to starting it up for the first time in about 15 months.

The first major job I completed was the installation of the headlights. These are not yet wired up but they are fitted. It was a fairly simple procedure that just involved mounting up the plastic nests, fitting the lamp units and refitting the headlamp cowls.

These are the cowls as they came from SVC. The little metal tags you can see around the rims hold the light units in place - a completely different system from the standard fitting where the lamps are held in place with a spring.

Weirdly they mount up asymmetrically with the adjusters on both headlights on the same side. I'm not sure if the standard ones were like that but it sure had me confused trying to fit them!

Another job I finally got round to is sorting out some of the paintwork on the bonnet. I've never been happy with the heavily oxidised paint and have tried using all manner of polishes and compounds to sort it out. None of them have worked so I resorted to more extreme methods! I decided that what was needed was to refinish the paint by flatting it back. Actually 'refinish' might not be the right word to use at all. The spots and runs on various parts of the car lead me to believe it might not have been properly 'finished' from the start. Either way after a session on the bonnet with 1500 grade wet and dry and plenty of soapy water I now have a lot less oxidisation. Of course now I have to remove the scratches that the wet and dry left and I've ordered some Poorboys SSR3 which should do the trick nicely!

I've also finally got around to starting it up! I unscrewed the dampers in the dashpots and put a little oil down the bores before cranking it over to get oil pressure. Then she rumbled into life! All I had to do was turn the fuel pressure down a tad to stop a float chamber overflowing and I was back in business. Result!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quarter Valance Done!

Yes, I've finally finished it! When I last mentioned it I was putting colour coats on it but since then I've given it a coat of 'leveller', cut the paint back and lacquered it. The 'leveller' is good stuff. It basically 're-activates' the paint and leaves the surface smoother so you don't get the 'orange peel' effect that spraying with a can often gives. After the lacquer I gave it a good cutting back with Poorboys SSR2 followed by Meguires 'Paint Cleaner', Autoglym 'Super Resin Polish' and finally Poorboys 'Nattys Blue' wax. After all that I had a finished panel and a knackered arm!

So then all I had to do was fit the indicator unit and mount it all up in the car. Nothing special about fitting the indicators, they just go straight in. I use a little bit of electrical tape around the edges of the panel where the squire clips fit just to prevent them scratching and becoming a rust trap.

So then all that I needed to do was to fit it to the car! If you want to fit one of these without removing the spoiler or bumper then the best way to do it is to open the bonnet and drop it in from behind. Then do up the bolts and you're done. I think it looks pretty cool now!

I've just had a delivery from the royal mail and it looks like my afternoon is sorted! I ordered some brake unions from Merlin Motorsport yesterday and they've arrived today along with the light 'nests' and wiring from SVC. I've just had a quick look at the wiring and they look perfect. Just got to fit them now!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Let There Be Lights!

Okay so I haven't actually fitted them and got working lights but at least I have some now! They came this morning and I've had a look at them and they look pretty good. Interestingly the sidelights are below and offset to the right of the main bulbs. I guess this is so that they are pointing through the correct part of the reflector. Annoyingly, the sidelight bulb holders come with about 4 inches of wire attached to them. The instructions say that you need to solder the connectors (supplied) onto them and then plug it into the car. Why is that annoying? Well I'm guessing 99.9% of people who buy these are going to need to solder those on. Why couldn't they do it at the factory? Why should I have to finish them off!?

Anyway, while I was looking at I noticed they do a pre-assembled wiring harness for these lights. So I gave them a call and got both the 'nest' and the wiring loom ordered! The guy I spoke too was very friendly, helpful and seemed to be very knowledgeable so I'm fairly confident the right parts will be winging their way to me soon! If you're thinking about doing this conversion them I recommend you factor in the prices for all these little extras. You can't actually fit the Halogen conversion light units with the old back parts so you need to get new ones. The price of these extras has nearly doubled the cost of the conversion!

I also pushed the car outside for the first time in over a year! Believe it or not the only thing stopping me pushing it before was a flat tyre! It seems these Yokohama tyres are so soft that a flat really can make the whole car nearly impossible to push! Anyway, the first thing I did with it outside was to jet wash off the dust and dirt that it had acquired over the year. I then went over it with Poorboys SSR2, Autoglym Super Resin Polish and finally finished off with Poorboys 'Nattys Blue'. Its finally starting to look a bit more respectable - just the quarter valance, brakes and headlights to finish off now!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Headlight Stripdown!

With the weather taking a turn for the worst I put the painting of the quarter valance on hold and started the daunting task of removing the old sealed beam units. I expected to uncover lots of rust and I wasn't disappointed!

First of all I needed to remove the headlamp surrounds. These are aluminium and are meant to be held on using a couple of bolts and a stud, but on mine there were only two! Unusually for my car they came off pretty easily. In fact two of them came off by hand!

With those out of the way, and with the help of a lake of penetrating oil, I finally unscrewed the chrome rings from around the light units and exposed some disintigrating inner bowls.

With those chucked in the scrap pile I only had the outer bowls left to remove. Each of these is attached to the bodywork by four rivets. I tried drilling these out but they had an annoying tendancy to spin with the drill so I changed tactics and resorted to grinding the heads off with my trusty Dremel followed by punching the remains out. This worked quite nicely and they did eventually come out, exposing more rust and some incredibly sorry looking rubber seals. This is pretty much where I've left it so far...

I've ordered a halogen conversion set from Mini Academy to replace the dismal sealed beam units. Unfortunately fitting these kind of headlights with the original back bowls would mean that I'd have to go through this entire strip down again just to replace a bulb! I hadn't realised this previously but thanks to a well timed thread on the Club Triumph noticeboard I discovered a solution. Thanks to 'phil866' who suggested the 7" open back nest set from Stafford Vehicle Components!

That's as far as I've got with the lights so far, but I have spent a little time fitting the alloy alternator mount that I bought from Canley Classics about 6 months ago. There was very little drama to report fitting it other than the fact that I cut my hand on a stray piece of glass that was hanging around in the garage! Just out of interest I weighed the old iron mount (575g) and compared it to the new one (225g). That's a saving of 350g! Very nice!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I've spent the day so far working continuing with the passenger side quarter valance. The etch primer coat from yesterday had dried nicely so I sprayed on the next layer which was a Halfords Zinc primer. I use Halfords paint for touching up and small jobs like this because it's a fairly decent acrylic paint and it's easy to get more of it in a hurry! There is also the advantage that they sell 'Rover Tahiti Blue' ready made in a can, so it saves a lot of hassles ordering in paint. The zinc primer leaves a fairly rough coat which is pretty good for taking the colour coat over the top.

It's definitely getting there! At this point I thought I'd better take a quick picture of the modifications needed to fit the American style indicators. As I mentioned before the body of the light is larger than the standard ones so you have to clearance the opening in the panel to get it to fit. I just used a burr in a drill for this and a Dremel to finish it off. By the time I'd finished it looked like this...

So after the primer coats I thought I'd better get some colour on there and sprayed over the panel in 'Tahiti blue'. You generally want to use paint on a warm day. I'm pretty lucky because it's a warm day today in the midlands and it's perfect for spraying outside! When spraying colour coats I tend to spray a bit closer to the panel than most and spray in lines working my way down the panel in short bursts. I make sure the paint is really 'wet' on the panel and I try to make sure my next pass meets up with the wet edge of the previous pass. This technique has worked pretty well for me in the past and it really is surprising how good a result you can get. At the moment I'm just letting it harden a bit before I continue with colour coating the other side. I will post another update soon but for the time being it's looking like this...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm Back!

Yes, I'm finally back in the UK! I'm back sooner than expected having parted ways with the company I was doing my pilot training with. I won't go into details other than to say it had been a pretty frustrating year for me as they basically struggled to get me flying and messed me about from day one. Over the year I had flown an average of less than once a week. Pretty bad considering that it's a full time residential course that doesn't have any holidays built into the schedule and you're supposed to fly 3 times a week!

Anyway, it's given me lots of energy to work on the Spitfire! I've had a good look at the parts I bought while I was abroad and I'm going to be fitting them and getting the car ready for the dreaded MOT over the next few weeks.

First thing I noticed when I stuck my head around the garage door was that the suspension has settled a fair bit since I fitted the wheels. The second thing I noticed was an oil slick! Looks to me like the sump plug is leaking a bit. I'm not quite sure what's happened there but I'll be having a look over the next few days. Another problem lies with the brake master cylinder. It's empty! I'm going to investigate and also replace the hose lines with some swivel fittings as I've never been happy with how the flexi hoses attach to the master cylinders.

I tried to push the car out of the garage and onto the drive the other day too but ran into some problems there as well. It didn't want to budge! I checked the handbrake and it wasn't on. I'd left it off deliberately to stop this sort of thing happening! Having rocked it back and forth a bit I've decided that it isn't a brake problem but it might be due to having a couple of flat tyres. I'll hopefully be sorting that soon!

I have done a few jobs already though. Firstly, I fitted my new number plate. This was a relatively easy one. I was careful to mount it at the right height and to get the holes in the right place. It worked out rather well and all I had to do was spray the plastic mounting screws black and fit it up. Looks good I think!

Then I began working on getting the lights sorted out. I'm fitting 'US spec' indicators and although it seemed like they would be a straightforward fit so far it has proven not to be the case! The back part is slightly larger than the UK part and I had to remove the quarter valances and open the holes out slightly with a Dremel to get them to fit. Of course regular readers may remember that I resprayed one of my quarter valances a while back. Unfortunately when taking the passenger side off I realised that it was just as bad (if not worse) as the drivers side had been so I reluctantly set to work on it.

I quite enjoy bodywork and I've been asked a few times how to do things like this so I might as well go through it in detail! First of all I stripped the mix of paint and Dinitrol off it using a knotted wire brush in an angle grinder and a wire brush on a drill for the tricky bits. Once the paint was off I had a good look at it and saw a few dents and dings here and there that would need a bit of filler and a few pitted areas that would need some rust killer. After cleaning off the remaining rust killer with thinners I gave it a good thin coat of Upol Acid #8 which highlighted all the bumps!

When that had dried I used a few thin smears of Isopon P38 to fill all the low points. After letting that dry I sanded it flat with a sanding pad on an electric 'delta' sander. The trick here is not to use a sanding pad which is too course or too fine. You don't want to 'polish' the filler but neither do you want to leave marks in it which might show through the paint! Also when you're sanding back don't worry about taking the paint around it off. You just need to respray it again like so.

If you think there are some more dents on the left hand side then you're wrong! Those are just the spot welds where the inner skin of this panel is attached. So now we've got a lovely dent free panel waiting for some more paint...

I think I'll carry on with this tomorrow!