Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Lurks Beneath...

Okay, I've got a bit distracted recently with the lathe, the tool trolley and my trip to the NEC. It's time to get back to the Spitfire! It's just amazing how decent a car can look and yet still hide all manner of bodgery! I keep telling myself that I'm one step ahead of most restorers in that I've got fully working, tried and tested mechanicals and that I've really only got bodywork and paint to do but it's not easy keeping the momentum up!

I'm still slowly getting through the bodywork on the front half of the car. The bonnet top panel only needs to be separated from the drivers side bonnet cone panel and a minor repair made to the flange before it's good to go. The passenger side headlight support panel (a Steelcraft panel) is clamped in place and looks to be quite a good fit around the headlight area but looks like it might need a bit of a trim where it meets the wing. The bonnet strengthener is clamped in place too and I'm now working on fitting up the drivers side support panel. Next step for me is getting a new bonnet strengthening bar and start trial fitting the wheelarch panels. I did buy one off eBay but it turned out to be a bit bent so I had to scrap it!

This weekend I turned my attention to the drivers side rear wing. It seemed solid enough but when I passed over it with a 'Dronco' clean and strip disc I was in for a nasty surprise!

Yeah, that's a seam weld running across the bottom half of the panel! The welding isn't bad but there is some horrible distortion in the panel and there was a lot of filler used to cover it! Next on my list of unpleasant was discoveries was this...

It's a fairly minor wheelarch dent. It's not too bad but it's an annoyance none the less! Finally, and I've saved the best for last, I found this...

I did cut into that a bit with some tinsnips to neaten it up so I didn't cut myself on it, but most of the metal was removed with my bare hands! A large chunk of boot floor, inner and outer wing literally came off in my hands!

Finding the wing in such poor condition has really made my mind up to replace it. There doesn't seem much point in repairing the back of it when the front's already been done and there's a dent in the middle. You may as well do the whole thing while you can! It needs to come off anyway because I need to do the B pillar too as it's rusted through on the drivers side. I've already got a repair section for the back half of the inner wing so hopefully with that in and a new inner wheelarch (it has multiple patches) I should be back in business!

I made another annoying discovery this weekend too. When pulling off the weatherseal around the door aperture I realised that the flange where the outer sill meets the strengthener and the floorpan looked a bit odd. My worst fears were confirmed when I managed to slip a knife blade between the outer sill and the strengthener and move it about a foot without hitting a weld. I really need to look into this closer - the sills are supposed to have been replaced before I bought the car and I was hoping not to have to do too much work on them. I'm just glad I didn't have an accident in it - a large part of the cars strength is in those sills.

Finally, here's a few pictures of my boot. The boot floor looks like it may just be repairable but the rear valance needs full on replacement. Lot's of welding fun to be had in the future!

Monday, November 14, 2011

NEC Classic Motor Show 2011

On Saturday I made my annual pillgrimage to the NEC for the Classic Car Show. I got there early on the saturday to try and take in as much as possible before it got too busy! I was glad I did! When I left the Top Gear Live show was in full swing and the whole NEC seemed to be absolutely rammed! I'm definately going to take a day off work and go on the Friday next year.

The lights in the exhibition halls do very strange things to cameras so it's not easy to get good shots, especially with my little point and shoot Pentax, but I think I came away with some quite good pictures this year. Enjoy!

Renault Spider - I remember reading about these in Car and Car Conversions when they first came out!

This was sporting a modern Zetec powerplant!

This was a nice TR8!

One of my all time favourites - Mercedes 450SEL 6.9!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pimp My Drill!

My first project on the lathe is complete! I've created three knobs for the end of the feed handles on my pillar drill. They're not very complex, which is why I thought they would be a good first project to get used to the lathe!

I started off by cutting a length of 2cm diameter aluminium bar into three 5cm sections. I then faced both ends of each piece and worked them until they were all within 1/10th of a mm and then I centre drilled and tapped each piece. After a quick tool change, I turned each piece just to clean then up a bit, before putting a slight bevel on the tops to loose the sharp edge.

I then set the thing up to do some tapering. The Unimat has a really neat headstock that can be twisted. That puts the work at an angle and allows tapered pieces to be created really easily. After making a couple of passes to neaten it up I was done!

This is the drill as purchased - with nasty black plastic knobs.

The freshly turned aluminium replacements!

I think they look pretty good! They aren't perfect but I am very impressed with the finish on them. I still have a few things to learn before I make a few bits up for the car though! If anyone knows a good tip for stopping the chuck marking a previously worked surface I want to hear it - it'll save me a fair bit of polishing next time!

Monday, October 17, 2011


Things have been going very slowly around here for the last few months! Work, other projects and a back injury followed by a foot injury have conspired against me!

Despite being busy, I have managed to do a small amount of work on the Spitfire. The windscreen is now out and didn't reveal too many horrors - just a little rust in the rain channels! The bonnet is now stripped down completely apart from the rear bonnet cone panels. I want to keep these on for as long as possible to get the right shape but I really need to sort out the bit where they meet the bonnet wing flange. There are three panels spot welded together here and rot has, rather unsurprisingly, taken hold. I think the easiest solution is going to be to chop it out and let some new metal into the flange before tackling the cone panel and then the wing.

Once I have repaired all the panels, I need to start getting them cleaned up and I've made a bit of an investment in a 3hp compressor from Jawel Paints so that I can get some grit blasting done. Grit blasting has a bit of a bad reputation with classic car restorers and a quick read of the Internet might have you believe you were practically guaranteed rippled panels. The reality of it is, though, that damage to panels like that can only be caused by industrial equipment and is not something that can easily be achieved at home!

To complete the kit, I bought a cheap sandblasting gun from Machine Mart which may or may not be any good (I haven't tried it yet!) and some J-Blast Supafine grit which came highly recommended on the MIG welding forum.

One of the other projects I have just finished is this mini lathe. I bought it off eBay as a complete wreck. It's an Emco Unimat design made by Elliott Machine in the UK. There is a huge following for these little lathes and parts crop up fairly regularly on eBay. According to my lathe is a Mk4 Unimat and probably originated from around 1959 - 1960.

I started the restoration off by stripping the paint. I couldn't decide if this was original or not but I guessed not because it looked like green Hammerite and it was literally slapped all over everything (including the plastic motor brush caps) but I have since seen a few finished like this! Either way, it got a few coats of the same grey POR15 I used to repaint my gearbox.

The rusty metalwork got a thorough dunking in derusting solution, whilst the seized chuck got a thorough soaking in penetrating oil followed by a bashing against the soft wood of my workbench!

The trickiest bit by far was the motor. Unimats are powered by a U-90 motor made in Holland by Motoren Eindhoven. Its a nicely made motor and has big 'Oilite' bearings but suffers from a low duty cycle. For every 8 minutes it's in use you have to let it rest for 2! It did work when I got it, but I took it apart anyway to repaint and instantly realised that all was not well with it. For a start, there was some very dodgy soldered connections inside that had been left bare and, secondly, there was supposed to be a suppressor inside. The only trace it had ever been there was a couple of soldered tags!

This was a bit of a problem. The motor would run without the suppressor but the brushes would wear rapidly. Unfortunately, the original type of suppressor hasn't been available for years and the only one available is too large to go inside the motor. I decided that the only real option was to use a suppressor from Maplins and mount it outside the motor.

Fitting the suppressor and putting on a new flex involved a lot of fiddly soldering in a very dingy, confined space but I eventually got it done! I find a soldering gun rather than a soldering iron makes these unpleasant jobs much more straightforward, not least because mine has a light on the front that comes on when the trigger is pulled!

The last job was to fit a new switch and plug. The originals were Bakelite and had seen much better days!

That's it! After a few false starts (due to a brush not making contact) the motor ran up nicely and sounded much healthier than it did before. All that's left to do on it is to heatshrink the suppressor to the cable to tidy it up and think of some things to make on it. My drill press has some nasty plastic bits on the feed handle that could be replaced by something nicer so I think that might be my first project.