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1978 Spitfire 1500 - restoring a rust free car...

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Thanks guys and agree Nick. The wing is getting left for now, I don't plan on putting so much as a tack weld on anything until the gaps are perfect all around the doors, bonnet, wings etc and that includes trying it with the seals I will eventually use. Still undecided on those as nothing on the market is close to the original fur covered double flap type seal.

Next week's target is to put the bonnet stay back on and remove the rest of the seams from the outer sills. I have some original door hinges to repair as well before I can mount the doors and that will take some time. I should probably do some cleaning too, my pile of cut metal is growing quite quickly.

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More slow going archeology today. Unpicking the rest of the outer sill and removing the layers of clumpy MIG weld where it meets the bulkhead and A post.


I'm getting there steadily, going through a lot of Dremel bits in the process but the original panel is starting to come back. A couple of tricks have helped me here - one is to check the colour of the metal being ground, when the top layer is getting thin it changes colour and goes blue. The other has been to get as much ground off as you can where you know the seams have distance between them, that makes it easier to judge where the panel underneath goes.



I was running out of time so thought I'd put the new door and outer sill on just roughly in place for another motivation boost. The door needs adjusting to bring it higher at the front, and the sill hasn't been tucked under the A post filler (think that will need to have to come off and go back on again), but already I can start to see the bodywork is going to be so much better than before. Everything is in the same plane and the swage lines will look great.


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Repairing original hinges is proving a futile exercise. I don't want to use the new ones the car had on when I bought it as they don't quite fit the same and location is key whilst I'm sorting the panel fit.

No amount of smacking with the hammer and punch gets the seized pin off on the first one I've tried. I have separated the two hinge parts by carefully cutting the pin with a dremel, used plenty of release agent and even heated the hinge until it's cherry red. Still not budging.

Are the hinge pins sold as some sort of macabre joke or is this unusual? I have thought about fabricating some sort of tool, like a cross between a C clamp and a balljoint splitter to push the pin through, but would that even work if I'm having this much trouble?

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Thanks Nick, glad it's not just me. This one was the same, the splined top had sheared off inside the outer hinge.

I have since got it to move! No idea if this is science or superstition but after setting the thing on fire again with the propane torch I left it outside in the freezing cold to cool down. More out of resentment than anything. I punched the pin again from both directions and it's actually going now.

Bit worried I have damaged the inner hinge slightly on the faces where it fits inside the outer though. Should the tube of the inner hinge be tight against the outer as mine isn't? I guess I could tack a washer on if it needs to be. Reckon there's about 1mm gap.

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Found a very educational thread of Roger's on the TR Reg forum - https://www.tr-register.co.uk/forums/index.php?/topic/78628-tr4-6-door-hinges/

Looks like a bit of drilling might be required for the new pins. I like the approach in that ebay link joeyg, I wonder how easy it would be to put oilite bushings in accurately. Roger's solution also seems very pragmatic though.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am planning ahead at each stage, and coming to the conclusion that I will probably have to cut out the lower a-post panels where they join the floor, and re-do the repair patches there in order to redress the sagging of the bulkhead and get the doors to fit.

I've been doing more cleanup to remove the old sills and remove the sill/A post filler panels, and after trial fitting the door again on the passenger side it still needs quite a bit of shifting past where it is now. I managed to get the hard top on with the door gap adjusters, but I think that's still not enough as the door gaps won't line up even at maximum travel - the gap is too wide at the upper rear edge of the door. The advice I've been given in the past is that just setting the hinges in the middle should give an indication of where things aren't in the right place.

These puckered outrigger mounts don't help but I think they also tell a story. When the body has sagged, the mount on the bulkhead will have been higher up than it should be. As the body is bolted down, something had to give to meet it in the right place so the captive nut has been pulled up - rather than the bulkhead being pulled forwards.


So I'm working on the assumption at some point I will need to take the body off again and sort this. Just not sure whether to do it now, or after I've cut out the inner sills and strengtheners too.

Those inner sill panels have been left in place for now, as I want to clean everything up and just loosely put the outer sills and doors on both sides to see where everything is.

Here's some more snaps from the cleanup. Salvaged the filler panel by using anything flat in the garage to separate the seam. The chisel is too aggressive here and distorts the panel, so I used a tenon saw but in future I've bought a decorating tool that I think will work nicely.



Should clean up well, I'll fill the holes with MIG and a thick copper backer.

This repair is what I think I'll need to cut out and re-do, in order to reset the bulkhead.  I had a lightbulb moment this weekend. I'd always assumed the sagging was from the outer and then inner sill replacements it has had, but it's equally likely that it was caused by this A post repair. If it wasn't braced, the whole bulkhead relative to the floor could have been welded back in to the wrong place as soon as the A post was patched up.

Also I'm worried if I don't cut this patch out and replace it, one of 2 things could happen:

  • I think I've fixed the gaps, but when I weld on the other panels and remove the adjusters it 'springs back' into where it was before, because this bit never moved
  • It works, but it rusts out from this seam. It had a new floor plug welded to it, so should be clean, but it looks a bit pitted and unhealthy in parts.




Daunting stuff and a bit depressing if I'm honest. It's 2 steps forward 1 step back a lot with it.

I'd like to brace more than the door gap at the top because I can see the shell becoming like jelly, but its tricky knowing what I should actually brace. There are lots of chassis measurements in the repair manual, but it's exceptionally hard finding any original measurements to tell me where the bulkhead panels should be relative to anything. So maybe some adjustable bracing is better?

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Having tried to do this many years ago my opinion is that you need to be able to adjust the horizontal gap top and bottom and up and down.

Effectively this means a Z shape brace.

As for the filler knife, they are great for that kind of job. Used them for years. Recommend getting a couple of scrapers too, look the same but the blade is slightly thicker and rigid.

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Don’t get hung up on measurements. You need all outer panels present so you can push everything around until it fits and the gaps are right. Factory hard top is very handy for setting screen top position.

If you take a look back at Chris’s Spitty resto thread there should be something there as we had nothing but a HUGE hole at one point…..

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7 minutes ago, Nick Jones said:

Don’t get hung up on measurements. You need all outer panels present so you can push everything around until it fits and the gaps are right. Factory hard top is very handy for setting screen top position.

If you take a look back at Chris’s Spitty resto thread there should be something there as we had nothing but a HUGE hole at one point…..

Yeah, pretty much this I would agree 

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Thanks both. Your advice and encouragement is keeping me positive and those threads are major inspiration Nick. I'd forgotten how much Chris cut out. If I do any panel fabrication as well as that GT6 tailgate you did together I'll be very happy.

I think I understand the Z brace concept as when the bulkhead sags, it leans back rather than sinks, right? The diagonal of the Z pushes from the lower B post to the upper A post. I am assuming this is the main plane of movement to rectify, with some consideration to horizontal (door) gaps, and hoping I don't need to sort any 'spread' as I've heard the two B posts can become wider apart as well.

In Martin Thaddeus' fantastic book on bodywork he shows how to use a body ram to push diagonally. This might be a bit tricky to do with some accuracy I think as the Spitfire windscreen frame is so flexible.

I've got time over Christmas to ponder all this stuff I suppose. Just need to keep cleaning up seams so I can get the other panels mounted and see where I am, the MIG welds in tight spots take ages to remove with the Dremel...

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1 hour ago, RichardB said:

I think I understand the Z brace concept as when the bulkhead sags, it leans back rather than sinks, right?

Yes, it certainly tends to lean back.  Because the front inner body mount that picks up on the centre of each outrigger tends to survive, providing a hard pivot point and because the weight of the doors levers on it.  Drivers swinging on the screen frame when getting in and out don't help either.

We didn't have a Z frame.  We had an adjustable door bar which allowed the door to be fitted (vital IMO) and some random lengths of box to tack in as props as the main problem we had was that there wasn't enough left to hold itself together.  It was like setting and splinting broken bones.



We did also use the tape measure for comparative measurements for parity side to side and the diagonals., but our tub had gone a very strange shape!

Here's a reminder of what you can recover from...... We must have been out of our minds!!  Just been looking back through the picture files and marvelling at how awful it was......



  Note H-frame and dash structural supports are fitted.

The car has great panel gaps now.  Took ages to achieve but totally worthwhile.

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18 hours ago, Nick Jones said:

Don’t get hung up on measurements. You need all outer panels present so you can push everything around until it fits and the gaps are right.

Agree with Nick - do one side and you can always take measures of the other.

And put the bonnet on too, as the entire bulkhead panel tends to drop back - you can still adjust this on the doors, but migt end up in a huge gap at the top / bonnet gap.

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Thanks both I agree. I actually can't see how you can do any of this without all the panels in place, you'd have to be some sort of genius engineer.

The bonnet I've got is a heritage one which isn't ideal, as the wings curve in at the back and this needs sorting too. Should be good enough to sort the sills out first though. The fit around the headlamps also needs sorting as the alignment is wrong - presume this is because there's a mix of OE and non-OE sheet metal in that area.

My strategy is to start with the driver's side as that has an original rear wing, so I can get that gap to be correct and then get the bonnet to match. Once that's perfect like you say I'll have measurements to aim for on the other side.

It's a shame the Spitfire at Gaydon is still suspended 5m up in the air - I was hoping to go down there and take some measurements. I have since found a period Triumph repair guide designed for the Herald that gives some desirable gaps that I think will be transferable.

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Here it is in all it's faded glory (!)


It came with 2 bonnets.  One was the original but so rusty it wasn't really self supporting any more.  This green one was better but still ugly.  We bought another that looked much better until someone started poking at it.  It was probably better than the green one... but not much.

I've hear that the Heritage ones are too narrow at the back and have to be spread a bit.  Not personal experience.  It's certainly easy to mess up the bit around the headlights - I do have experience of that!

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Here's the research I've done so far and some sources, combined with a few measurements I remember from old threads before the Club Triumph forum regressed 20 years in technology.

  • Door to rear wing gap: 3/16" or ~ 5mm
  • Door bottom to sill gap: as above, maybe a bit bigger? not sure how easily this can be controlled and probably not an issue.
  • Door front to bonnet: 3/8" or ~10mm. Rule of thumb appears to be double the rear gap for Spitfires - interesting to see Triumph recommended less for the Herald. Different shape though.
  • Bonnet to windscreen: 5/32", narrowing slightly to 9/64" at the rubber bumper.
  • Front wing to outer sill: 3/16" seems an ideal target from looking at photos

The bonnet to windscreen gap I found on the Triumph Experience forums. All these are guides at the moment until I get things fitted but I'm conscious recording this stuff on here might be useful to people in the future.


The 3/16" ish gap for the back of the door seems a constant across most Triumphs of the era (see Herald factory repair guidance) and the advice of restorers who know what they're doing these days.

I suppose you could gap it to whatever you wanted and try to make the car have modern panel gaps, but regret it later on when things shift later on and you can't open the bonnet or door without damaging it!




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