CLASSIC AND VINTAGE SPECIALS
  BODYWORKS ROBIN GELL
  SYMPATHETIC CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION
  PANEL REFABRICATION 

TRADITIONAL CELLULOSE COLOUR

  ROLLERED 2K PRIMING AND SURFACING

BRG

Classic and vintage specials.

Sympathetic conservation, preservation and longevity

 in refinishing and spray painting of classic and vintage vehicles.

Structural and panel refabrication.

 

Sunbeam Lotus page 2.  Refabrication.

Having pulled it comprehensively apart and identified all the rot, and extent of required rebuilding work, which in this instance cost the first 110hrs or so, we now move to the more pleasureable part where things start to come together again.  This will involve refabrication of the rear arches, inner and outer, rear corners, front chassis leg and footwells on both sides, a rear chassis leg and floor sections, together with many other sundry holes dotted about the place.

All repair sections will be fabricated here in my workshop, and the end result will be repairs that do not look like repairs.  The car will need very close scrutiny to discover the repaired sections, and will look like an original unrepaired vehicle.

We start at the back end, and the most complex areas of refabrication.

Rear arches.

The first job is to reconstruct the rear arches.  Here is the first stage in producing a new inner arch ring.  Folding an over-length strip of steel to create the bottom flange. 

Like this...

Then we stretch it into a curve.

Voila, a new inner arch ring.

The arch is cut to butt joint to the original arch.  Inner and outer arches are placed and marked so that the inner ring is positioned correctly such that the two flanges meet properly.

This is tacked into place to make up the rear arch and inner wing sections.  Initial tacking is to ensure correct location all round, before final seam welding all along.   In between tacking, the panels are perfectly aligned, as distortion occurs, before filling in with more tacks.  No horrible overlapped joints here.

Gradually filling in between the tacks to make a continuous bead.

Grinding off the finished seam leaves us with an inner arch as good as the original one.  Grinding off inside the arch too, leaves an almost indistinguishable from  new, finish.  Trial fit of new rear end of arch also going on here.

Now for the closing panels of the rear inner wings.  Firstly, beating out the basic shape on the sand bag.  (Actually this picture shows the lower corner outer wing section, but the principle is the same!)

Then over to the wheel.  The "English Wheel" stretches the steel forming compound curves, plus rolls out the hammer blows into a smooth finish.

Trial fitting sections of inner arch before fitting the ring.  Three pieces due to the complex shape of the panel.

Then the same on the other side.

Arch section tacked in place.

Then finally everything is plug welded and seamed together.  The bottom flange is yet to be finished off, as is the arch to the inside of the car, which will be described later.  Despite the rusty looks of the upper arch, it is actually sound apart from the rusty seam between arch panels as mentioned above.  The edge of the rear valance will also be replaced with new metal later on.

Then the same on the other side and we have two whole original style inner wings again. Note that the two sides are totally different from each other.

Inside of off side inner wing.  Outer wing is in temporary tacked position and the flange can be seen under the inner wing flange.  Chassis leg has some rust holes and extensive degradation on the other side.  It is to be replaced next.

Now we have temporarily tacked on the outer arch in order to make up new bottom corner pieces.  Back to the sand bag, shrinkers and wheel then.

The outer wings are tacked on temporarily to shape up the new corner closing panels.  Here is the closing piece for the off side, ready for trimming up and cutting in.

And this looks pretty fair for the near side.

Tacking in place before changing the bumper corner plinth separately.

Here is the new bumper corner fixing plinth tacked in.

..and here is the whole panel being trialed into position held up by hand, which shows a very good fit.  Next, it will be seam welded on the bench.

Here is the other side, in the process of being ground flush.

Inside faces of panels sprayed with cold galvanising spray zinc before fitting..

New arch tacked in place first to ensure correct placing.  Gradual seaming between the tacks to take place to avoid distortion.

Final joining of the inner and outer arches was undertaken when the car was put on the spit and turned over so that the arches are pointing upwards as much as possible.  This is so as to get good spot welds which run into the material rather that running out, as welding upside  down would tend to do.    The edge of the inner arch will now be trimmed.   Note that also it has now been possible to finish off the inner wing properly by right way round seam welding.                                                                                 

Rear valance edges.

As part of the rear arch refabrication, the edges of the rear valance needed replacing, because as can be seen in the above pictures, they were pretty ragged with rust and old spot welds.

Offside edge, the seam weld, looking like a line of stiches, joins the new edge to the old sound valance.  Awaiting grinding flush.

Rear chassis leg and boot floor.

Investigations showed that the chassis leg at the rear was very thin in parts due to corrosion, and the floor in the corners was also about to go into holes.  Therefore some time was taken to open out the bits needing replacement.  This is the full extent of the rot cut out, and it was decided that the best way of tackling this was to fabricate a new section of chassis leg and a new piece of floor.  This could be all spot welded together on the bench, which will include the lower flange of the wheel well itself, so that it can all be seam welded into position from the inside, the only underside welding being that of the chassis box section itself.

All the rot cut out to reasonable metal.  Repair of the chassis and floor was considered impractical to achieve in situ to any good standard, as the picture below shows, and so the whole section will be removed and refabricated.

First the inner rear panel was removed by disconnecting the spot welds and cutting neatly through the panel so as to only and inobtrusively, remove the corner section.  This was so that the whole floor could be replaced.

Then we could make a big hole by taking the lot out.  Cleaning up the edges still to be done here, and removal of the lower flange of the wheel well, which needs renewing too, as does the flange for the inner rear panel.

First step in making a new rear chassis leg.  Two of these are required.  This has just been folded up from sheet.

These are bent in the appropriate positions to make up the necessary shape of the chassis leg.

Clamping these together to the correct dimension determines the trim line so as to butt the joint between the two.  This is then sawn through in the "jig" and seam welded together while in situ.

Thus.  That is a welding blanket over the bench, not the wife's best table cloth.

Then the floor section was cut out of plate using a template.  Various jigging had to be rigged up to form the various flanges necessary in the complex shape of the floor.  The big round thing is not a dolly but is the "set" or balance point from the locomotive turntable at Brecon station.

And here is the finished article, temporarily screwed together for fitting and checking before spot welding together as  per the original.  It is made in two sections to replicate the original spot welded connection between the two sections of floor in the original, and also screwed to the front flange is a new flange for the base of the wheel well, which will be spot welded to the floor section and seam welded to the rest of the well.  All will look original on completion.

Welds now ground down smooth on the chassis base.  The front of the leg needs a bit more trimming to make it identical and a snug fit into the cut out hole.

Rear off side floor and chassis section welded up on the bench and slotted into place, tacked pending seaming up.

After seam welding into position and partial grinding off, the arch flange now looks as good as original.

Off side inner wing again, top and rear section reconstruction.

In conjunction with the chassis and floor section described above, a central strip of original inner arch and well was sound, but the rear half of the top of the well was in holes and needed replacing.  It was not done at the same time as the floor in order to preserve original positioning and dimensions etc.

Problems had been evident from the inside, with bulging spot welds to the inner closing panel to the wheel arch, so away it had to come.
The full extent of the removal. All bad bits removed back into good metal to an extent making for easy replacement.

Not so visible here, but it is full of deep pits and holes.  Heavy rusting from both sides.  This now has to be templated and a new one made exactly the same.

And here is the new one.  New flange and tube for filler hole too.

Here, the original tube section cut from the filler hole, is welded to a new flange and flush ground, ready for reattaching to the outer wing.

.... like this, shown before flush grinding.

View from outside after grinding back.  New inner can be seen resting behind, with matching hole and spot weld punchings.

Trial fit of new fabrication.  It fits to within one  milimetre all round, (except that annoying bit at the top inside the car, but no matter, weld will fill that okay.

Before the assembly could be fitted in, a new closing panel and arch flange had to be made.  Here it is; the arch flange being screwed to the panel for alignment purposes.  It is inside, and the joggled pattern reflects the shape, as per the original item. Original filler pipe cover piece being used again,  tacked on for alignment.

Making the indented edge of the inner closure panel.

Clamping down for welding up.  Arch flange shown here too, which locates behind the joggled edge on the main panel.

  Ready for Morgan to weld up for me.  That's his Kit-Kat in the picture above.  If only you could pay all your workers in Chocolate.

The whole assembly, annoyingly out of focus, trial fitted together.

Galv sprayed before fitting.

Welding in progress.

As part of the rear corner finishing, the inner rear panel needs a new flange which was ragged after separating from the outer.  This is at the lower corner of the tailgate.

There.  Another Kit-Kat for Morgan.

Here we go again, on the near side.  Not so complicated luckily, and the chassis leg is much better so can remain. The two arch halves need new flanges and the inner side panel needs edge repair, although the inner side panel and the outer wheel well panel are actually one panel, so will be repaired as such.  New section of floor needed and new flanges to the wheel arch lower edge, to spot weld to the floor as per the original.

Front chassis leg refabrication.

We have removed the whole of the front leg of the off side chassis, and now this needs rebuilding.

A length of suitable sized 2mm box section forms the basis of the new leg.  The top is removed and a flange formed on the inner side, as per original, where it joins to the lower side of the inner wing panel.

Trial fitting in place.  New inner arch panel section to be made up together with new lower flange.

Here we see the new inner wing section being made up to fit the new leg.  It is in two parts as per the original, joggled together and with a cut out to clear the bulkhead to floor pan flange.  This shape is all recognisable in the pictures above.

Here is the new inner wing bottom flange being trial fitted to the chassis leg.  It has an upstand at the outer edge which will be fitted to the inside of the original wing edge, so sandwiching that edge.

Welding in captive nuts for crossmember and anti roll bar.

With leg wedged into place, the suspension is attached and check measured.  It is aligned correctly to less than 1mm.

Final in situ fitting before welding up on the bench.  Screwed strap holds correct angle pending fitting of fillets.

Aligning radius arm bracket.

Finally the whole lot is spot and seam welded on the bench with this result.

Finally welding the front chassis leg into position.  A wedge had to be taken out of the leg in order to weld the floor together inside.  The wedge was subsequently welded back into position and the gusset plate fitted.

The leg was first screwed into position, lots of holes drilled for spot welding through and for scew fixing in order to keep the section in place properly so as to get neat spot welds and the plates in proper registration.  Here we see a myriad of spot welds holding the flanges together. Some are seen ground back.

Nearside chassis leg repair.

Despite initial satisfactory inspection, it later could be seen that all was not quite so well as it was thought.  The chassis leg was bulging and holed behind the front radius arm bracket.

Bulging can be seen to the right hand side of the top edge of the bracket.

More easily seen with some persuasion.

The whole lot was cut out and below, we see the removed piece of chassis separated from the bracket.  Round holes are drilled out spot welds.  Ragged holes are rust holes.

The first step in reconstruction was to replace the reinforcing section inside the chassis leg.  It is the same piece that came out, and was in fine enough condition so went back in.  Here, the whole interior was treated to a cold galv spray.

Chassis then closed up with new steel.  Spot welds to above reinforcement, visible, albeit ground flush.

After fitting a new "tray section" with down standing ears, all was cold galv sprayed.  Here, the bracket is awaiting screwing into position for spot welding through the holes shown.

Off side rear radius arm mounting bracket and chassis section.

This little nasty was waiting to catch me out.  Everything looked pretty good on the whole in this area, but one small hole above the A frame bracket which is just forward of the radius arm bracket, was needing investigation.  Removing underseal from both areas showed that the radius arm outer bracket was bulging outwards and this could only be because of a build up of rust behind it, and between it and the chassis side member.  This rusting would have been caused by the fact that the brackets are spot welded to the chassis only, the edges being open to moisture ingress, especially from the top!  It's a wonder they are still there at all!

The floor inside the car was removed in a strip just over the chassis box section, and this revealed all.  The chassis was gone behind the bracket, and the bracket itself was paper thin and soon went through completely.  The whole bracket, chassis section and floor section including wheel arch / well flanges would have to be replaced.  The next few days were taken up with this extra work.

New bracket cut out waiting for folding into shape.

Hole forming.

New bracket now fitted to new section of chassis and new floor section above.  Wheel arch inner and outer flanges being held in place with grips.

All held together with screws to ensure alignment before spot welding together as per the original.

Spot and seam welded up on the bench, the assembly without the floor section is welded into position.  The majority of the welding is done from above, which makes much easier and higher quality work. Chassis join partially ground back flush to make the join invisible.  The "ear" on the underside of the member coming in from the left, is the A frame panhard rod bracket for the back axle, and this "ear" was not welded on the original. It has now been seamed to preserve it.  Non standard, but better quality!

Underside of new bracket.  Some grinding still to be done.

Chassis box section welded from above inside.  Bracket seam welded onto cill section rather than the original spot welds, again to prevent water ingress.

The wheel arch centre flanges which were made up together with the bracket section can now be fitted before the floor section is finally added.  Lining up prior to welding in. Some grinding back of old restoration welds still needed here. 

Other Sundry body repairs.

Corner of wing at base of tailgate.  Very  much a rust spot, cut out and replaced.

Wedged into position before tacking.

Here is the other side, more extensive, tacked in pending seaming.

New off side headlamp box.

Attempts were made to repair the old one, but after shot blasting, and letting in new metal where it had rotted out, there were still so many pin holes blowing through when filling in, that it was decided to be uneconomical and quicker to fabricate a new one.

C Pillar repairs.

Paper template made.  The hole above represents the area removed due to total disintegration of the steel due to moisture trapping below the vent louvres in the plastic sealing backing and water draining collector, which doesn't actually drain, but collect water behind the pillar, hence the rusting out.  The plastic has been cut off flush with the template, which will form the new base of the louvred section.

The extent of the steel repair.  The remaining section will be made up in marine epoxy.  This is because it is impossible to remove the plastic sealing section from inside the pillar to allow full steel fabrication.  More than this would result in the plastic melting out and a water tight joint would be impossible, resulting in water in the rear of the car.  This way, the plastic can be bonded with the steel and epoxy, and the water seal established, directing water outside the pillar, not inside it.

The same procedure on the other side.  Magnetic darts have their uses!

Filling rust holes in the top of the rear near side wing with pieces of steel exactly cut to fit the holes.  These are welded in place.

Front nearside inner wing, new section between turret legs.

Not so straight forward as it seemed, it needed seam welding all round inside and also, spot welding to the turret legs, and to the chassis rail on the other side.

AND NOW THE FRONT END.

There is lots to do at the front.  Firstly we have to strip out the engine bay.

Getting the engine and gearbox out.

 
Take the gearbox crossmember bolts out while it is level and balanced, all hanging on the crane.

Then skew the lot down at the back with the level bar, edge forwards and draw it up almost vertically.  It is very tight.  Worse than the V8 in the MGB although it didn't look like it.

Footwells

After engine removal, and consequently any weight that comes to bear on the front end, it was time to replace both footwells, which had become very extensively rusted out, and had had previous very poor restoration work undertaken to both sides.

Nearside.

Extent of initial cut out section of footwell, including the rear section of the inner wing top.

Leaving this big hole.

Section of earlier repair patching.  This is to be removed.

Making a cardboard template for the inner wing top section, which is to be fitted last, after the footwell repair.

And then the steel one!  Trial fit.

Showing the joint between footwell top and the inner wing section.

Assembly of new footwell underway on the bench.  Templated top of footwell attached to side member, together with new edge and flange to front of footwell, spot welded to the side member.

tacking and seaming in the new footwell section.

Seam welds ground flush to finish the footwell repair section installation.  Next, it will be finished with the new inner wing repair piece fitted on top.

And here it is.  Spot welded to the footwell underneath, and seamed to the front section of inner wing.  The rear edge is as per the original inner wing joint.  Locating screws removed one by one and the holes replaced with spot weld.

Before fitting the inner wing repair piece. Seam welds ground flush at the pillar union.

Stepping back a little, seamed footwell top and tacked side edge, flanged to the new side member, awaiting seaming up and flush grinding.

The top is then finished off with a new wing fixing flange, to replace the one ragged with rust!  The front section is still ok and the joint can be seen between the two.

Flange pending grinding off the welds, flush.

The bottom of the pillar front edge was removed to tidy up a very sloppy previous repair.  The cill end can be seen and is in good condition.

Off side footwell.

The off side footwell was in much the same state as the near side one, only worse! The pillar front had extensively rusted out also.

Starting to cut out the front of the pillar. Footwell already gone.

Front of pillar removed.  "New" cill now visible this side and has some surface rust as it was never wax treated, but it is only surface.

Full extent of removal of front of pillar.  Inner closing panel still intact.  Spot welds separated.

Full extent of removal of footwell and pillar.

New pillar section, spray galved on inside faces.  Holes for spot welds to hinge reinforcement plate.  Footwell side member being lined up also.

Now in situ.

Footwell side member with footwell front repair section strip spotwelded on.

Top end of footwell repair showing side member, front repair strip and top repair section welded together.  Clamped to this is the inner wing top section  repair piece, which has to be welded in after the main assembly.

Offering up the footwell repair section for installation.

.....and after installation.  Spot weld pilot holes for the inner wing section.

....and there, the inner wing section is in place.

Finally the addition of a new wing fixing flange to the top.  Here awaiting grinding flush on the edge.

Rear of wing fixing flange.

On this side, the whole length of the wing fixing flange needed replacing.  Here the front section has been tacked in place.

Suspension turrets.

As can be seen above, on the off side, the front suspension turrets have double skinning, which has been filled over on the inner wing tops.  Exposure of the joints reveals an interesting sight.  They are well made, but are not cut outs from other inner wings as the big hole is actually smaller than that in the actual inner wing.  The big central hole is however, perfectly cut, and does not give the appearance of being a botched repair skin. 

It is considered a possiblilty that these were factory additions to this car, as an experiment, but I have an open mind on the subject.

In any case, these sections had to be cut out as the lower skin had rotted through into holes, and had to be replaced.  This work was undertaken in such a way as to preserve the double skinning in an as original a form as possible, just in case this is a part of history which should be preserved.

Removal of off side turret top skin shows extent of rusting of lower skin.

Cleaning up and descaling to be done before refitting inner wing section.

Rotten inner skin cut out and replaced by this new section.  The front of the turret was deemed too bad to leave and so the new section being held below, was made to replace it.

Like this.

Outer and inner skins awaiting rejoining.

Shot blasted upper skin and surrounding inner wing section.  Underside.

Reconstructed section cold galvanised and ready to refit.

After seam welding into place.  Seams double welded, i.e. welded from both sides.

Original apperance preserved.  It will now be spot welded through to the turret top.

Holes for spot, or plug welds.  The pilot hole right through assists in obtaining a nice level fill.

And all plugs filled in with weld.

The nearside before removal.

After chasing around the joints.

On this side it was decided to remove the top skin, inside the original weld lines. 

Although degraded, the lower skin still had effective spot welds to the turret top, which would not have released if both skins had not been parted in situ first, to enable indentification and drilling out of the spots.  This is in contrast to the off side one, whose spot welds had almost entirely degraded and were easy to remove.

New section ready for welding in.  Note holes for spot welds.

Spot welded into place, awaiting top skin.  Cold galv to be applied first.

Like this...

This was the last piece of major refabrication, however it was not the end of the weld repairs, and further areas of refabrication were to be undertaken when the car was put on the spit, described on the next page.  Additionally, the doors and door skins, and bonnet were also in need of refabrication, which is described on their own page.

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