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

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A lot is down to the type of paint used. I've fully restored several cars over the years, and as a DIY job have always used a cellulose paint finish with great results. But after several months the paint shrinks and you can see hair line cracks appear, usually in tight corners and along seams. Easy to rectify, the advantage of doing it yourself and having half a litre of the original mix paint left over. Just need to get in there before rust takes hold. I've also used Bonda Primer as an undercoat, and found it to be durable and long lasting. Just needs a good key, to make sure the top coat stick.

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  • 1 month later...

Very little to report over the last few weeks but got back on the grind (literally) the weekend just gone. I knew removing the rear wing lower finisher remnants would be a bit fiddly so have been putting it off, but after some uncomfortable work lying under the boot I managed to get it off.




The next bit was carefully removing the rest of the rear wing along the back edge.

Using a flap disc is a bit risky here because they tend to remove metal unevenly and dig in a bit, but I'm happy with how it came out. There will probably be some more tweaking to do with the dremel once the rear wing is going on properly, but at least now it looks cleaner and I can start thinking about offering the wing up again to see where we are, rather than very loosely clamping it in place.





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Did some practicing with card templates today.

I have two original bootlids, both have been repaired in the corners but in different ways - one with filler, the other by blasting weld into the holes and a bit of patching. I think the metal repair is somewhat better, though neither are really good enough as even the metal repair has exposed holes and bits of the lip missing.



The first practice piece was deliberately over ambitious, mainly because I wanted to try out all the relevant tools including the anvil and prove my thoughts that trying to make 1 big piece to weld in would be masochistic.

Fabricating it was fairly easy. The new sheet metal cutter attaches neatly to my pop up welding bench and I'm impressed by the quality of the cut, the left hand (good) side of the cut is very close to flat when you've finished, it only really marks the waste (right hand) side of the cut.



Making this practice piece gave me a good idea of how best to line up sharpie marks when making corners etc.



^ So that's where I got to with that trial patch. All that would be left to finish it would be making the fold lines a bit neater, then creating the rear lip that goes under the trim piece.

Just drawing out the sharpie line to make the last fold confirmed for me why it would be a nightmare having one patch piece. The depth of the metal between the two folds determines how high or low the repair patch would sit, and it would be damn near impossible to get the height of this precisely right to maintain the curvature of the boot lid panel.

Now onto the way I'm hoping to do it (feedback welcome):


Patch to cover the blasted weld holes, replacing them with a solid metal - probably still sunken below the correct surface of the boot, but easy to build up with a thin skim of filler over the now solid, and primed, surface.

Repairing the missing lip:





This worked great - except planishing the repair patch imprinted the rough edge of the welding table into the metal. Doh!

I'll have to knock up a new one next week. Still feels like progress though, for the first time on this project I'm actually crafting little bits of metal and have a rough idea what I'm going to do with them.

Edited by RichardB
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1 hour ago, Escadrille Ecosse said:

Good luck with this. Patching flat panels is always challenging 

Indeed. This is worse as they aren’t actually flat, just nearly flat.

trouble with making in multiple pieces is that the joints need to be welded and ground back without leaving pin holes. Distortions become a potential issue and the heat affected zones always seem more rust prone even if you managed not to leave any pin holes. I’d be aiming for minimal pieces, though not necessarily single piece and thinking carefully about where the welds will be and how I’ll dress them back.

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Thanks both, the number of curves and not quite straight edges in this will make it very challenging to do anything complicated. I think the best I'll be able to manage is to patch it slightly undersized and then build up with filler, any patch method will require it.

The corners of later Spitfire boots are so rust prone you could almost be defeatist and see any repairs here as temporary, no matter how well done. I'd love a carbon fibre replacement, it's a shame there's nothing on the market that fits as well as an OEM steel one. Even some of the new steel ones fit quite badly.

Edited by RichardB
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  • 2 weeks later...

Made some more progress today. My first ever welded patch on a car.

There's a bit more to do to seal up some tiny holes and dressing back before I move onto making a small piece for the lip, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

First off I traced carefully around the repair patch, before cutting out the metal:


Taking care to leave a gap


Before tacking this on I sprayed the back of the panel and bits of the bootlid with Frost zinc weld through primer.

I then went off do have quite a bit of practice with scraps of metal to find the best settings for good penetration when skip welding. The optimum seemed to be Power: 1 / Max and wire speed just under 5 on my Clarke 160TM MIG.

Admittedly the welding isn't the finest here, but good enough to do the first bit of grinding back.


Then I set to it with the spot welder. After practicing with continuous and pulsed settings for 1+1mm on default power, I ended up going with the pulsed setting (looks like a square wave). I suspect the point of the pulsed setting is to burn off the zinc primer in the area to be welded, whether it does that or not it definitely created a stronger weld in testing.


Apart from me forgetting to clean the weld through primer under the lip before starting, which stopped the spot welder from working, it was an absolute pleasure to use with no fuss whatsoever.

I'm really glad I got a dedicated 32A socket put in the garage for this and the MIG. It will save a lot of time and effort doing plug welds that may also need grinding back, and it will make panel replacement in future easier if combustion engine cars still exist by that point.

So here's where I got to after grinding back. Just a little bit more work needed but as I said, happy with it as a first go.


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Finished the missing triangle that I should have really made as part of the first piece, and then moved onto the more complicated final piece.



It's nearly done, just a bit of cleaning on the edge you can see there with the sharpie mark. I managed to get a neat flange on the anvil with hammers and clamps.

Fitting it will be quite a faff with all the angles and heights to preserve...


Edited by RichardB
added a better photo
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  • 2 months later...

I've had to spend the last few 'car mornings' tidying the garage or doing other things so I was feeling a bit down about the car recently as it's ages since I've done anything meaningful. Determined to do something, I did a bit of cutting and cleaning on the boot lid.

Felt good to get that blobby repair cut out, in readiness for my new patch.




Interesting how the pyrolysis and phosphate dip cleans the inside of the skins a bit, but it doesn't work miracles. Unless you picked apart every single seam like a £500k Ferrari resto, you'd have to accept that box sections and skinned panels are going to look fairly grubby inside.


There's a bit of seam left to take off next time before I can start fettling the repair patch properly. I had forgotten to take the drill with me, so just left that bit for now.

One small bit of positive news though is that I've come across an original pair of door seals. Flap type with black moquette. I'm dead chuffed with these after searching for over a decade - I got to the point where I didn't think I'd ever see some, despite boring everyone I meet when I complain about how the ones sold today are just not the same. Both in Stanpart packets and looking like they were made yesterday.



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12 hours ago, RichardB said:

it's ages since I've done anything meaningful. Determined to do something, I did a bit of cutting and cleaning on the boot lid.

I feel your pain on that score. But good to see some progress

And pair of the original 'furry finisher' as it was described in the old John Kipping's catalogue. :thumbsup:

Much better that the Furflex.

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Think I've got the patch fettled enough now. You can just about see how it's shaping up.



(it will need a bit of pressure to get it to sit correctly but it's where it needs to be)



The rear edge is deliberately a bit skew-if so it doesn't sit proud. The left and top edges are also slightly lower than the final panel, as it's all going to be built up with filler - albeit with 100% solid metal underneath this time.

Ideally I'd have managed to make a perfect metal repair with the right angles, but it's much less time consuming to just focus on making it solid, with decent welds, and then shape the corner. The other bootlid I have still has the factory corner shape despite being mostly filler inside, so I will copy that when shaping the filler. That then sets me up well for aligning the rear wing and continuing the body shell proper.

Last order of business for the day was giving the inside a coat of Bondarust primer. The flanges to be welded will get sprayed with zinc weld through primer next time.


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Patch welded in today. Thankfully it's not distorted the existing panel too much when skip welding, and is sat nicely lower in all planes so it can be brought flush with filler. Just a bit of final trimming to do first.

Any recommendations on epoxy for filling, or are all 2 part brands pretty much the same stuff?




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Consider epoxy primer before filler.  If you've got the shape really good you might get away with "Dolphin Glaze".  It's a polyester stopper really so not for where much thickness is needed, but nice stuff to work with.

Also, can you get at the back of that long weld to paint/seal?  MIG welds are a bugger for being porous, especially when ground back which lets the damp in under the filler.  All else fails, squirting plenty of Dinitrol in the box section will likely sort it.

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That's what I was thinking. No doubt there will be pin holes so I was thinking a light skim of epoxy before using body filler, although perhaps epoxy primer makes more sense. I've been using Bondarust which is supposed to be non porous so will either use that or epoxy primer.

I reckon this will need doing again to be honest, maybe even with dinitrol sprayed inside. Might buy me a decade or two though. It seems like they all rot out because of condensation and its very hard to stop it. Any moisture in the boot or air around it will rise up find its way into the box sections on cold days.


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  • 3 months later...

Took a little break from working on the TR6 hard top yesterday, and got back on the Spitfire for a bit. You may recall I obtained an original outer sill front plate, steelcraft one behind for comparison:


I set about making the steelcraft ones into perfect copies of the OE Triumph part. That way I can keep the Triumph one as a reference or pass it on to someone else who may need it.

For what it's worth, I don't know if the differences will actually cause any issue - but if you're going to restore a car you might as well have as much originality as you can get.


I started by tracing the original part onto the Steelcraft one with a sharpie, and cut out the oversize metal. There's a little u shaped cut out that also had to be let in.


I bare metalled them, partly as the primer had a bit of surface rust underneath. Not sure how as they were stored in a spare bedroom since new.

Masked up to avoid spraying bondarust where I'll be welding them. That will have weld through primer instead.




The end result. Original panel in the middle, its shape copied onto left and right parts.

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  • 1 month later...

Sadly no, it's been very quiet on the Spitfire this year. Most of the hour or two a week I get to play with cars has gone on the TR6, either to practice welding on the hard top or fix running issues.

I'm leaning towards taking a week off work in August just to work on the Spitfire, more for the motivation boost if anything...

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1 hour ago, RichardB said:

Sadly no, it's been very quiet on the Spitfire this year. Most of the hour or two a week I get to play with cars has gone on the TR6, either to practice welding on the hard top or fix running issues.

I'm leaning towards taking a week off work in August just to work on the Spitfire, more for the motivation boost if anything...

Fair enough. Maintaining motivation can sometimes be difficult. Keep up the good work :thumbsup:

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  • 4 months later...

Nearly half a year since I last made an update. That's reflective of how little progress I've made unfortunately, but offset by a lot of learning and constructive work on my Dad's TR6. I'm now well and truly fed up of working on that car so it's back to my own for a bit!

I started off cleaning up some of the gashed A-post panel I'd cut in order to test whether lifting the bulkhead would sort the panel gaps. I've more to do but am a bit unsure how much to replace here. I can already reposition the bulkhead enough to get the desired gaps, I'm also considering to cut out the scabby part (see black sharpie line) that's welded to the front of the floor so the whole of the floor and A-post are released. This would be to avoid any chance of something 'springing' back after welding is finished, and also to just make it cleaner.



I then set to the b-post to floor as well, as I wasn't keen on the patch that had been made here.

Out it came.



Now I can see almost all of the floor pan lip, which will be necessary when I extend it from 1/2" deep to 3/4"+ deep in order to get the right position when welding the outer sill.


It's always a bit of a mess in the car because I'm very short of workshop space.

In this photo I've just included a shot of the ratchet straps. I was using these to pull the floor back into place, after accidentally bending it downwards a bit with the hydraulic ram when testing out if the bulkhead could be satisfactorily raised.

It seems very difficult to now get it to sit completely flat it's entire length. I don't know if I'm being overly cautious or trying to aim for something unnecessary. The floor seems like it should be flat, but when putting a metre rule or straight edge across it, it seems to become a bit higher towards the front of the car. Maybe a few mm of bow across its entire length. I don't think this should cause any issue with alignment, once the a post and floor flanges are extended. It bugs me though and I would be grateful if anyone has a floor pan you could put a straight edge or metre rule against to let me know how yours measures.

I think this is also an area I need to keep an eye on. The heelboard to inner B post panel has seen better days and when the floor was replaced, it seems to have been put in the right place give or take a few mm. Presumably if it was too far inboard, the b post would be too far inboard also and that could screw up the rear wing and rear outer sill attachment. I've seen a lot of Spitfire's where the sill juts inwards under the rear of the door and I don't want anything that would make it more likely.


Anyhow back to more reconstructive surgery.

The Stanpart door striker panel I picked up has given me the perfect template to improve mine. Some aspects of the repairs to this panel are excellent, but one issue with it was that the flange where the rear wing attaches wasn't deep enough. This will have been one of the contributing factors to the door always slamming onto the rear wing, and being impossible to adjust properly.

I don't want to butcher such a rare panel to fix mine, so I'm using it as a reference. I've only seen 2 for sale in the 14 years I've owned the car.

I first had a go last month at making a template out of card, then trying to weld two pieces of shaped steel together. This largely worked, but took many hours to get close to satisfactory with no pin holes and a concave bend. I was proud at what I'd managed to achieve with this method, but the carbide burrs still left an obvious finish and I can't see this being a time effective way of doing other repairs.




So I bit the bullet and bought a pair of shrinker/stretchers from Frost, duly mounting them to my pop up welding bench.

They passed the test of "Don't keep spending more money on things, when what I really need is time. But - can I spend any money to measurably speed this restoration up".

After a bit of trial and error I have to say I'm very impressed at how good a repair piece you can make. This took under half the time with an even thickness of steel, much improved finish and no welds to worry about becoming rusty in future.


I started by bending a piece of steel 90 degrees using the table and a clamped copper bar.


Using the card template I still had lying around from last month got me very close to the original panel. Just a few more tweaks needed.


Just about there now after comparing it with the real thing and adjusting.


A much neater finish results. Next time this can be cut to final shape and welded in.


Edited by RichardB
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Are they still on the go?

They once sent me an incorrect item which they refused to uplift,
it cost me £20 to send it back, which,
given it was their mistake, was unfair to say the least. 
They stopped sending catalogues after that...


There was an American company with a branch in Bristol(?), Eastwood, who sold
a comparable range of products. I was disappointed when they stopped trading,
they were always helpful. 


you are making progress Richard.
It is always a good sense of achievement to learn something new :cool:




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I bought a stretcher /shrinker part way through the GT6 project. Should have done it years before. Single machine with two sets of jaws. Brilliant. Short have invested years ago?

Can’t remember where I got it. Wasn’t Frost though. 

Stakesys is a name to remember 


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  • 1 month later...

I had one of those days today where you just feel like giving up and selling or scrapping the car. 5 hours in the workshop with nothing to show for it and big questions about how feasible it is to sort the bodywork.

Although I haven't posted in a while I have been working on the car between testing paints, I just haven't had much meaningful in the way of work to show.

First job over the last few weeks was to get the B post patch welded in and ground off. I also had to recreate the lip that goes under the outer sill, which I ended up doing later once I'd got a new air grinder tool for weld dressing. This uses 3M cubitron II roloc discs and does a very neat job in tight spaces.


I then made a repair for the heelboard. I haven't finished welding this in yet but it's mostly tacked in place.


It's already been patched before, which I think may be something I need to rectify. At the top of the patch, there's nothing attaching it to the original metal because the person welding it couldn't get behind the inner wheel arch.


Paper template turned to metal...


Tacked in...


This patch looked neat, but was a bit of a mess on the other side. I wanted to see inside the heelboard box section so elected to remove it carefully by thinning the metal with a flap disc, then finding out what was the patch and what was original inner b-post inside.



Uncovered - not that bad, but some rust inside out of shot that I think had arrived from water being flung up at the patched repair in the wheel arch.


I could now get to the other side of the heelboard repair I was making, which made things much easier. I welded the new lip to the original heelboard panel using a piece of copper behind it. Inner sill is just there for checking things later on.


The next big job I was really not looking forward to was extending the floor. It's 1/2" deep but should be 3/4" deep. Careful tack welding, fit up and using a copper bar behind the welds meant I did a really good job on the first section with good penetration and no distortion visible beyond the weld seam. I think the proximity to the corner helps. I used stitches rather than tacks as I want this weld to be very strong.



That then brings us to today....

The day started well, and I had a fairly clear plan. Before welding the rest of the floor I decided that it was probably best to get the door gaps as good as I could before tacking some bracing in, checking the inner sill position and then moving the floor up to the inner sill. The floor was still a bit bent in the middle of its length and is now much easier to position with a cut flange.

Unfortunately, nothing I can do seems to be able to get the bulkhead in the right position. It just won't go where it needs to in order to set the door in the right place.

The door is a NOS unipart one so I know this to be a datum point. Likewise, the rear wing is definitely in the right position fore and aft, the seam matches perfectly like the other side (which has an original rear wing). The leading edge of the rear wing where it meets the door will no doubt need some fettling at the bottom half, but the top half of the wing is a rigid panel and the flange should form a profile that at least loosely matches the edge of the door.

So all I needed to do today was to start by getting the rear edge of the door aligned properly. Problem is, it seems to be impossible.

I centred the hinges meticulously again in the A post which should give a rough indication of how far out things are.


It seems to be very difficult to lift the a post / bulkhead, without the floor going down. Even when I put a jack underneath the floor, the rest of the car lifting up created a bow in the floor pan which is I guess like trying to stretch a diamond shape.

This was the starting position. It's a bit hard to see but the door is touching the rear wing at the swage line, but gap is about 1cm at the top. It's like the door is rotated 10 degrees counter clockwise to the car and can't be moved clockwise by adjusting the hinges (I tried).


This below was about as useful as anything I could do, but still not really helpful. It's out of shot inside the car, but the power ram is inside the car pushing up between the floor and the door gap adjuster flange, above where you can see the blocks of wood. The gap is slightly more even but it's still not right, and just ends up becoming bigger. It might look okay on screen but the door and the wing still have a V shaped gap.

Pushing the bulkhead up makes the rear door gap more even and less V like, but it seems to widen the door gap too which is not helpful.

I tried lots of different things here including playing with the door gap adjuster, but I think the door gap distance at the bottom of the door is actually correct. The problem is the rotation of the door which is caused by incorrect location of the bulkhead.


It's got me scratching my head as I would have thought the hard top should provide at least a bit of help locating the bulkhead, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

There is definitely a relationship between the door location and the floor, because bending the floor up seems to help - yet it's like that movement fights the bulkhead correction.

So I'm now concerned that I don't really know what to do next. The previous owner replaced the floor and inner sill after the outer sill and strengthener had already been replaced, so floor location could be affecting this. I'm inclined to think it won't be correctable with the floor in place, but do I really want to cut out the floor to break more bones when there's otherwise nothing wrong with it?

My strategy of getting rid of any aftermarket panels and using stanpart where possible has worked really well so far, but now I'm at a point where that doesn't really help solving my problem.

Either way I'm feeling quite fed up with the car and would welcome any thoughts.


Edited by RichardB
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