Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bonnet Rot!

I've decided I'm going to start by sorting the bonnet out before I go on to do the rest of the car. The main reason for this is because I want to do things in manageable chunks so I don't get bogged down and I think the bonnet is a good place to start!

Having stripped off the lights last week, the next stage was to remove the bonnet catches. This was trickier than I'd imagined because of corrosion and in the end I had to get the Dremel out and grind the screws off. I made a mental note to use stainless fasteners here when I'm refitting them! I then set about removing the bonnet at the hinge boxes. I used thick cardboard between the quarter valances and the bonnet to stop it dropping down and hitting the radiator cap and carefully undid the bolts. With the help of an assistant (my mum!) I lifted the bonnet clear and stood it up on its back edge.

With the bonnet like this I could get a good look at it. To be honest, it was a pretty sorry sight! I had a good poke around and managed to make some pretty big holes with a screwdriver. There was also filler, glassfibre and copious quantities of extra steel sheet welded in! It was time to start sorting all this out!

I thought I'd start with the ropey wheelarches so I cleaned up the edge of the drivers side wheelarch using a 'Dronco' cleaning fleece, with the intention of finding the spotwelds and drilling them out to release the wing. Imagine my surprise then to find - no spotwelds! It seems at some stage, someone had badly seam welded them in! I really needed the arch out of the way so I could get at the wing spotwelds so there wasn't really an alternative other than to just cut through the outer arches. I used a Clarke 1mm 'plasma cut' cutting disc on an angle grinder to slice through it and aviation snips to cut back the edge.

While I had the snips out I removed a previous owners modification - a piece of plain sheet steel welded under each of the headlight strengthener panels. Guess what I found underneath? If you guessed rust - you're right!

With those cut out, my next job was to remove the passenger side wheelarch. I had hoped to reuse the inner arch panel on this side but when I pulled it away from the bonnet support tube bracket, I realised the metal I was looking at was on the bracket and the panel had a hole in it! The outer on this side was particularly bad - there were three layers in some places and very crusty! The cutting disc made hard work of this and I was forced to split the various layers with a chisel and then cut them out!

I had hoped to reuse a wing and one of the inner arch panels but on closer inspection it looks like I'll be fitting two new wings, inner and outer wheel arch panels on both sides and two new headlight stiffener panels. Basically, that's all the panels other than the main bonnet panel and the strengthener panel in the nose!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Big Decisions!

Over the last few months I've come to the inescapable conclusion that the time has come to properly restore my car! The last 7 years have taught me a lot about Triumph Spitfires - how they work, why they don't and, above all, the importance of top quality workmanship! Whenever I've had a job to do I've always tried to do it to the best of my abilities regardless of the time taken or, at times, the financial cost! The results of my labour is a car that is pretty much mechanically sorted. The bodywork however, is another kettle of fish. I've had a few patches welded on the floorpan in the past and needed a few more before the RBRR. This got me thinking - if I don't restore it soon it might deteriorate to the point where it's not worth doing.

I think that you basically seem to need a combination of four things to restore a car. Those four things are time, money, skills and space! When it comes to money and time, like everyone, I could do with more of both but I hope to keep the costs down by doing a lot of work myself. I also have the advantage that all the mechanical stuff is done already so I won't have the costs of that to factor in. In terms of skills, I'm going to need to learn how to MIG weld and I'm also going to have to get better at bodywork. There is really no getting away from that, those are essential! I've made a fairly serious investment along those lines but I'll discuss that another time!

In terms of space, I've really lucked out! My grandparents house is only a mile from my house and has a sizable double garage with a workshop at the back. It's full of junk but should be just fine once I've cleared it out. It has a special significance for me as well as I have many happy memories of the projects my grandad and I built in there before his death last year. Back in the 60's it was also used to build an Austin 7 special so I'm hoping it will bode well for my car! Here are a few pictures of my car settling in...

I've just started stripping it down. The front bumper, lights, spoiler, overiders and number plates are all removed and boxed up in my workshop. It begins...