Bit Prep
Cleaning & Renewing Parts

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6/24/02 -- Although family matters have taken up much of my time since the kids got out of school this month, I've managed to start prepping some of the dozens of parts that are going to be needed to complete the restoration. For instance, this week, I removed a fuse box from a spare Mk3 wiring harness I picked up on eBay. New wiring harnesses do not include the all-important fuse box, and the original style boxes are no longer being manufactured, so you've got to find them where you can. Using some thinner, I scrubbed off some paint overspray with a toothbrush on the plastic, then sprayed it down with Armor All. The fuse box looks just as new as the wiring harness it's fitted to now, which IS new.

Before disconnecting old, frayed donor harness, I took photos to assist in the re-wiring later.

I also decided to keep, restore and use a Smith's GT6 Mk1 heater box that I also purchased on eBay to use instead of the "correct" Mk3 heater unit. This will make it necessary for me to mount the air distribution lever somewhere inconspicuous, like under the dash top above the parcel tray on the driver's side, I'm thinking... I was originally going to try and swap the box for a Spitfire unit, but two things changed my mind: The larger, two-speed fan motor and a more convenient remote cable operated vent controller instead of the manual flaps that the Spitfire box uses to route the airflow from the dash top vents to the floor area.

Aside from these differences, the heater units are identical in that the fit in exactly the same manner in the same space with the same mounting points. Yesterday, I dismantled the heater box, removed the core for testing and bead blasted some rust that had formed along the bottom of the box. Fearing a leaking core, I took a wire brush to the copper fins, straightening many of them out with the edge of a razor blade, then took the core over to a local radiator shop that does great work for a pressure check.

The manager took one look at the core and immediately proclaimed it was in good shape. "But what about the rust staining here on the bottom?", I protested. "That's from someone not tightening down the rubber hose well enough and some water sprayed back into the housing." the man matter-of-factly replied. "Can you pressure test it for me?", I asked. "Sure" he says. "How much?" I ask. "How much you want to spend? Want to spend five dollars and buy me lunch? Aah, I won't charge you anything for this!" said the man I've come to know as Emilio. He quickly connected the core to a an air line, submersed it in a large vat of green coolant and confirmed that there was no leak.

"Is there a special kind of paint you use for radiators?", I asked. "Nope, just gloss black from Home Depot. We buy it by the case." Emilio seemed confused that there would even BE a special paint for radiators and this backed up similar reactions I'd gotten when asking about this topic. I thought about the special $9-a-can plus shipping stuff from Eastwood's, but opted to take Emilio up on his offer to sell me a can of his gloss black for two bucks with no tax. I came home, cleaned off the pressure tested, used 16" radiator I bought for $9.95 on eBay, straightened out a few errant cooling fins with my razor blade and painted the whole thing gloss black. It turned out beautifully. Here are the before and after pictures of the radiator:

I then turned my attention to the dismantled heater box and painted that gloss black just like it was originally as well. It's great to know that the core is good. I need to replace a 1" wide length of weather stripping that flanks the heater core elements on the box and the box lid. I'm not sure of the purpose of this weather strip, perhaps just to keep the core from rattling against the box, which is reason enough for me to want to replace it before reassembling.

Items being prepped for cleaning and painting include the clutch and brake pedals. I took several items down to be powdercoated in semi-gloss (satin) black. These include the radiator cradle, mounting panels and support rods, the brake and clutch M/C brackets, the heater vents and caps and the heater valve bracket.

I've also made two strange purchases on eBay recently: A vibratory parts tumbler and a 17 pound can of every bolt, nut and shim that hold a Spitfire together. The bolts and bits are going to be loaded into the cleaner/polisher for processing, yielding what I hope will be revitalized hardware to complete the restoration with.

6/28/02 -- Well, the vibratory tumbler arrived today, but I'm still waiting for the can of hardware. I loaded the same glass bead media that I use to bead blast into the hopper, threw in some rusty parts and turned on the switch. Hmmm... works pretty quietly! Good! The following parts have been cooking for about an hour now as I write this:

And old, rusting voltage regulator that attaches to the back of the speedometer to drop the voltage to 9v for the fuel and temp gauges, and a set of rusty radiator bracket bolts. I'm intensely curious to see how these items turn out....

7/10/02 -- The tumbler works just terrific. It takes hours for the thing to vibrate away scale and corrosion, and I decided that glass bead was not the best way to go. For the safest and gentlest restoral, the corn cob media does a nice job. But the carbide media that I used to sandblast the tub works fairly quickly on removing rust from bolts and small parts. I recently bought two sets of nuts, bolts, washers and fasteners from a couple of dismantled Spitfires. The quality of the original hardware far exceeds anything that can be purchased through Victoria British, for example. Their hardware will begin to rust if you just breathe on it, practically. The original bolts appear to have been black oxidized for rust prevention and after hitting the pile of them with some brake parts cleaning aerosol, I ran them through the vibratory parts cleaner for about three hours, then used my tap and die set to clean out the grooves on some of the bolts that still had some old crud packed into the threads.

There's still some crud on the voltage regulator, but with more time, I'm sure it would come off. Compare with the "before" photo above. I also put a really dirty, tired SU carb float bowl in there and left it overnight. It came out looking like this:

Not bad! The aluminum isn't mirror smooth, but check out that brass nut! It almost looks liquid it's so shiny! I've processed most of the bolts that I purchased. Just about all of the shorter 3/8, 24pt thread ones, which are now sorted and ready to use when the time comes.

My heater vents, heater valve bracket, clutch and brake M/C brackets, radiator mounting brackets, radiator cradle, radiator support rods and bonnet prop stays are all back from getting powdercoated and look terrific. Here are some of the items hanging on my pegboard, ready for installation once the tub is painted. Hey! What's that broken sprinkler pipe "T" extractor doing there!

8/3/02 -- Man, I can't believe it's already August and I still haven't gotten the tub painted yet! But, I've been busy gathering the rest of the parts I need (still doing that), repairing another ding or two that I hadn't noticed at first on the tub and getting the used parts I've acquired refurbished. My most recent clean-up project was the Delco Remy type D200 distributor with vacuum advance which is the correct distributor for my engine spec. The engine, by the by, is supposed to be ready in about two days for me to pick up. I'll believe it when I see it! The builder has had my engine in their shop for two months now!

Here's the distributor as it looked when I purchased it on eBay for $20.50 (a great price considering these are fairly difficult to find -- and even better now that I know the vacuum membrane is still working). It was slightly dented, on the top opening, which is probably why no cap came with it. One wouldn't have fit.

After removing the points and condenser (I'm going to install the Pertronix model No. 1149C that is designed for this distributor), I looked around the garage for something round to use as a dollie to try and hammer the flat spot back out. I suppose I could have carefully bent it back in shape with a set of pliers, but my vice came to the rescue with a rounded portion behind the jaws that worked just perfectly as a backstop. A few gentle hammer whacks and the distributor opening was rounded once again. I had an old cap in my toolbox and tried it on to fit. Perfect.

Next, I removed the vacuum unit by removing two screws. Super easy to do. Setting it aside, I turned my attention to the distributor body and decided that the easiest course of action would be to simply take some 80 grit sandpaper and sand off the remaining paint and very light surface rust on the exposed bare metal. I threw the retaining clips into the vibratory parts tumbler and let it go to work on those while I sanded the distributor housing to bare metal. The distributor shaft is quite secure with no wobble. Good deal. After the sanding, I turned the distributor sideways and gave the inside a good blast with aerosol carburettor cleaner. Like brake cleaner this stuff will clear out any dirt and gunk in a hurry. I turned the dizzy upside down and let the fluid drain out. I then found a box and cut small hole just big enough for the distributor shaft to sit inside, with the distributor sitting upside down on top of the box. After masking off the shaft, and cleaning off the distributor I placed the unit upside down top of the box and gave it a coat of fast drying black primer followed shortly thereafter with several light coats of general purpose gloss black paint. I had considered painting it silver hammerite or black hammerite and but ruled it out for aesthetic reasons.

While the paint dried, I went over the vacuum unit with a brass wire brush to clean off the baked on dust and then went over the whole thing with Simichrome metal polish on an old toothbrush. I must have been polishing that thing for a half an hour, but the resulting shine was worth the effort. By the time I was finished with this, the clips had been cleaned nicely in the parts tumbler and I reinstalled those on the vacuum unit, then reattached the vacuum unit to the distributor.

TIP: To test the vacuum unit on the distributor, attach a short length of rubber hose to the vacuum advance, suck in as hard as you can and see if it moves the distributor plate. Hold your breath and observe for about 15 seconds. If the plate holds steady, the diaphram is good. Special thanks to my local Spitfire friend and mentor, Ken C., for sharing that handy technique.

8/13/02 -- Things are rapidly beginning to fall into place now, literally, since I got the engine back from the speed shop last week. I ordered some gaskets and mounted the water pump housing, and an NOS AC fuel pump I picked up a long time ago. I polished the top of the fuel pump cap with a buffing wheel and it looks terrific. Ken stopped by last Saturday morning, and with his assistance, we installed the clutch, mated the engine to the bellhousing of the rebuilt overdrive transmission and temporarily lowered it into place just long enough for me to mark and drill two new holes in the transmission mount on the frame to accomodate the new O/D transmission. Unfortunately, the flange on my O/D propshaft is not compatible with the mating flange on the differential, but the good news is, I have another driveshaft with the correct flange that I can pull off ans swap. Of course, this involves removing u-joints and the going has been difficult for me with those dang things. I'm currently struggling with the driveshafts.

I wire brushed and repainted two horn mounts, to which I will bolt a pair of high/low note Clear Hooter horns that someone was selling on eBay. The horns have never been used. I tested them out and they sound marvelous.

Yesterday morning, I purchased a barely used high efficiency electric fan to use in place of the mechanical fan that I spent two hours cleaning up and repainting. It's a PermaCool model that fits the radiator perfectly, but I'm having my local radiator shop fabricate a nice galvanized sheetmetal shroud to go along with it to improve cooling efficiency. With all the performance improvements I've invested in the engine, it makes sense to go the extra mile and modernize the cooling to further increase horsepower, quiet the engine compartment and to take some of the load off the water pump bearings.

9/8/02 -- Well, the electric fan idea has been shelved for now. I created not one, but two different shroud designs in the hopes of clearing the water pump pulley, but no go. So the mechanical blade has been fitted for the time being. Hey, at least I didn't do all that work restoring the blade for nothing!

If I decide to use the Permacool fan later, it will have to be mounted to the front of the radiator, which is not my preference.

Since my last entry, I've been keeping busy cleaning up parts -- I'm halfway through a wiper motor restoral -- and wondering why I bother since the wipers will never be used! But at least the motor will look good... The brake and clutch pedals have been dismantled bead blasted, reassembled and painted. They're ready to go. Actually, what you see here are two brake pedals. The one on the left is missing the switch. The clutch and brake pedals are identical except for the switch and mount on the brake pedal. I had a hard time finding a regular clutch pedal, so I decided to improvise.

My current project, which I hope to complete today, is the restoral of this front grill, shown here before I started the cleanup. A soft wire brush on my angle grinder made short work of cleaning up the backside. For the front, I've just taken some fine steel wool across the ribs and followed up with aluminum polish. Next, I need to mask off the polished ribs and spray paint the rest of the grill in matte black.

Although I'd like to fit wire wheels again, money and time are an issue and so for the time being, I'm going to polish up and fit a set of Western aluminum 13 x 6 mags and a set of four Dunlop 175 50R 13 tires. I had wanted Comp or Euro TA's from B.F. Goodrich, but I'm told they are no longer manufacturing the smaller, low profile sizes. Bummer. I'm going to try and get the wheels finished today as well if I can. Yesterday, I washed and re-painted the headlight buckets gloss black. They turned out just fine.

This morning, I managed to finish with the windscreen wiper motor and cleaned up the back of the grill. Here's a "before and after" of the grill, all in the same shot!

Even though the backside of the grill came from the factory as plain brushed aluminum, after brushing off all the accumulated grime, I opted to paint the backside of the grill in silver hammerite, figuring it will be easier to wash off and keep clean. At least, that's my theory. Hope I'm right!


Here's the front after polishing the ribs, but before painting the surrounding area black.

The grill is sitting on my truck tailgate which is open, in case you're wondering "huh?" Here's a photo of the wiper moter, the black portion painted in black Hammerite after careful masking. The base is painted in standard black. semi-gloss. I've decided to leave the bare metal exposed on the wiper motor for now, with more cleaning and buffing to be done later. It looks about right to me!

To be continued...

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Please. Always wear your seatbelt while driving -- and that goes double for your children if you have any.