Paintwork and Assembly

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9/12/02 -- We're in an exciting phase of the restoration now, and so I felt it deserved it's own special page with plenty of photos and "how to" information where I can provide it.

First, I have finally come to peace with myself for delegating the final block sanding preparation and painting to a professional who was willing to paint this car as I wished --in pieces. There is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't have been nearly as pleased (if at all) with the final result had I attempted this stage of the job myself. Here's a photo of Mario's "detail" man, Keone (pronounced key-OH-knee) buffing out the bonnet. Four coats of clear was applied over the color, which contains bits of red, green and blue pearl, which give it the rich depth and lustre I was looking for.

Keone checked Rafael's bodywork, then made certain all the door handle openings and so forth were opened before Mario applied the paint today. Keone then handles the color sanding and buffing if Mario is too busy to do it himself. Keone put in some overtime today finishing up the bonnet.

Going to bare metal means that everything needs the protection of paint before being reassembled. That also included the tube hinge mounts that attach the bonnet to the frame. The brackets that hold the tubes to the wheel arches were sandblasted, put in primer and dropped off with the car -- and promptly lost. These vital brackets still haven't been recovered, but the painting process had begun and I needed to do something! So I "borrowed" the set from my GT6 project. Unless I get a windfall or win the lottery, I may be pilfering the windshield from the GT6+ to install on this car as well. The GT6+ windshield is going to have to come out regardless -- to replace the badly deteriorated rubber. We'll see. I drove back later in the afternoon to see how the body turned out, and was really knocked out by the bonnet, which is shown here in the final stages of buffing. It will be finished tomorrow.

I had to compensate for the flourescent lighting, so the photos below aren't quite as accurate as the photo above for capturing the color, but they come pretty close to how it looked in the artificially lit booth..

Mario was a little upset that the clear coat dried so fast, producing a bit of orange peel. However, he seemed confident that it would buff out all right.

The strong odor of the toxic clear coat was still in the air, as these photos were taken about 20 minutes after Mario emerged from the booth, so I didn't want to hang around too long taking pictures. Below is the front valance and the boot lid.

What these photos can't capture, however, is the brilliant sheen of this paint out in the sun. For me, it closely resembles bare metal, but if you look very closely, you can see traces of the red, green and blue pearl mixed in with the silver base. I really love the look.

After some discussion with Mario, I decided to go ahead and paint the door latch mechanisms. I think they'll look better than the bare metal, which looks a little uneven in color, even after beadblasting.

9/13/02 -- Who says Friday the 13th is an unlucky day? They found my original bonnet tube brackets at last, and painted them today. I learned this while dropping back off the door latch hardware which I painted with the Eastwood "Detail Silver Argent" that I've had sitting on my shelf for months. They look nice.

Keone was busy at work on the tub and man, it looks gorgeous. The orange peel has been eliminated, from what I could see, and better still, the tub should be ready for pickup this Monday, the 16th, right on schedule. I brought home the valance and boot lid, along with several other small parts today, and just need to find a few friends to help with the transportation and lifting of the tub on Monday. Unfortunately, the tires I ordered for my wheels won't be in until next week, so I'm going to have to fit the steel wheels temporarily to wheel the chassis to a better position for us to lower the tub onto it. While my preference would be to drop the tub in place the moment I bring it home, I may not have the manpower available to accomplish that. But we'll sure try.

9/14/02 -- This is where the fun begins... and I can't think of a better photo that personifies that feeling than the picture below of my youngest son, Mac, who just turned 10 last week.

When I rolled home with the bonnet on the bed of our pickup, Mac couldn't help turning it into a "fort" for a few minutes...

I'll be picking up the tub on Monday afternoon. If we didn't have guests this weekend, I'd be out in the garage installing the lights and turn signals right now...

9/15/02 -- As it turned out, our houseguests were kind enough to take the kids to the mall this afternoon, so I seized the opportunity to install the parking light/turn signal units and compete the restoration work on the grill.

I ran into a snag with the lights as they have mounting studs affixed to them that didn't line up with my mounting holes! The fix was relatively easy and straightforward. I removed the studs by striking them with a light hammer and backing them out of their square-mount openings. Then I drilled two new mounting holes that were compatible with the holes already on the bonnet.

After installing both light fixtures, I masked off the polished ribs on the grill and spray painted the rest in satin black.

I also managed to find the time this afternoon to mount Joe Curry's camber compensator. Glad to know that that one is out of the way and ready to go before the tub is mated to the chassis tomorrow.

9/22/02 -- I've been so busy since getting the tub onto the chassis that I've scarcely had time to write and keep the log going... After getting the tub home via a rented flatbed from Home Depot (great deal at $19 for 75 minutes, including their gasoline), my son Alex (right), my friend Bear Williams (center) and neighbor Mark (left) got the tub off the truck and laid it on the chassis.











I sprayed 3M adhesive on the rubber spacers to keep them in place, but it didn't work. During all the lowering and scooching, a couple of them fell off. I also discovered that I should have placed just aluminum spacers on the rear shock towers where I had put rubber ones. I still had the rear rotisserie bracket bolted to the tub, so I placed a floor jack under the brace and lifted the rear end of the car just enough to crawl under and reposition the rubber spacers, and lay the aluminum ones where they are supposed to go. And yes, I had jackstands in place for safety!

I screwed two bolts into the center section where the seatbelt anchors go in order to prevent the tub from shifting fore or aft as I was lowering the rear of the vehicle back down into place. Then, I set about installing the twelve bolts that hold the tub to the frame. That reminds me, I still have one left to go. After torquing down the bolts to around 30 ft/lbs each, I immediately installed the door check straps to make sure the doors didn't get accidentally damaged.

To date, I've managed to install the lower valance (which needed to be cut with a jigsaw in order to fit properly!), fitted the headlamps into place, installed the freshly restored grill and installed the bonnet. Today was largely spent getting the gaps as close to 3/16ths wherever possible. It was a real chore, let me tell you. The results are still not perfect -- I have some panel issues that need to be addressed -- but overall I'm really pleased.

The coil, heater valve, solenoid, brake pressure switch and wiper motor have all been fitted, as well as the rear taillights. I need to get over to the auto parts store tomorrow and see about getting a proper grommet for the fusebox, then, I'll begin routing the wiring harness.

I rolled the car out into the driveway for a couple of hours and brought the front bumper and overriders out of the attic. One of the overrider rubbers was a bit chewed up, so I used some ultra black permatex gasket maker to fill in the divits and smoothed down the repairs with straight razor. The color of the Permatex didn't match the rubber as well as I would have hoped. It looked more dark gray than "ultra black". So I used a little black satin spray paint on the rubber and I'll be damned if it doesn't perfectly match the other pure rubber overrider pad now.

The panel issues I referred to earlier are illustrated below. The left side trailing corner of the bonnet wants to curl inward. I'm managed to straight most of it out now, but would still like to take care of it.

On the opposite side, the door isn't staying fully latched, and the door has more of a curve along it's leading edge as opposed to the trailing edge bonnet, which is prety flat. I need to create some sort of a jig to carefully provide a gentle curve to the bonnet panel.

This is proving to be the only disadvantages I've encountered so far from having the vehicle painted in pieces, off of the chassis, but they're still a drag to have to address.

9/24/02 -- I still have a ton of things to do and purchase if I intend to make my completion deadline a week from this Sunday. I need to rebuild the brake M/C for starters. But the worst part is, I think that I'm simply going to run flat out of money before I can complete the car in time. I'll need to order a carpet kit by the end of this week if I hope to have it in time, and there are many other parts I still need to make everything work, like a clutch slave cylinder and door panels, for example. Time and money are both closing in. Oh well, if I don't make the show this year, then so be it.

I had the new Dunlop 175 50R 13 tires mounted to the Western rims this afternoon. I also made good progress with getting vinyl applied to the back of the windscreen and I've had the cracked and damaged dash restored by a neat little upholstery shop nearby with great service and from what I have seen so far, very good craftsmanship. I took the dash top to a couple of different places to get bids yesterday, and settled on one that I felt good about. I selected the fine grain vinyl that will be applied and have made arrangements for the upholsterer to come over to my place to do the facia surround early next week.

Tomorrow, I'm having new windshield glass installed. I found a place that will do it for not much more than the cost of the windshield through the usual sources, so I jumped all over that offer. I'll bring the frame to them and they'll assemble it with the new seal and trim piece tomorrow or Thursday.

I've installed the voltage regulator, the heater unit and attempted to install the front bumper the other evening, but the bolt holes didn't want to line up for me. I can see that this is going to be a real chore.

I've also managed to largely eliminate those panel alignment problems via a little gentle nudging with my fingertips.

9/27/02 -- It's really been a busy few days since my last update. I rebuilt the brake master cylinder, installed it, installed the clutch master cylinder, the gas tank, the front bumper (finally!), painted the wheels, had the tires mounted, got the dash top back (looks great), had the back of the windscreen frame covered in matching vinyl and had the windshield glass installed. The entire glass has a green tint to it and I rather like it.

I put the car back on jackstands today, and crawled under to install most of the fuel line along the chassis rail. Just one more short piece and I'll be done. The boot lid has been installed, so has the fuel cap. I'm going to work on installing the new rear brakes tomorrow, and try to get most of the handbrake installed. With any luck, the dash top and windscreen will be installed over the weekend. Perhaps the steering column, too. But that one needs to be cleaned up and re-painted.

I need to install suspension shims on the lower fulcrums to take care of a positive camber problem. And when I was underneath the car this afternoon, I noted a small leak coming from the pinion seal on the rear end. Oop! Deja Vu! Here we go again... Here are more pictures of the progress.

10/10/02 -- San Diego British Car Day has come and gone for another year. While I personally made it to the show, Mrs. Jones did not. I ran into a significant snag while bleeding the brakes the day before and finally threw in the towel and decided to slow things down a little bit. The front brakes bled with no unusual problems. The rear cylinders however, are seen to be leaking even though they appear new. The small tappets from the rear brake adjusters were also missing -- something that I did not know before -- so I ordered new cylinders and made in appeal for the missing adjuster bits.

10/16/02 -- The assembly process has slowed recently by my own choice. For one thing, I injured my back somehow about two weeks ago and I'm trying to let it heal before doing too much more bending over, which of course is a necessity during this stage of the rebuild.

Progress has been made, however, and I really only have a few more pieces to the puzzle to obtain. The biggest piece of the puzzle is the carpeting, which will be the absolute last item I install, pretty much. I also need to purchase a water hose adapter that fits into a threaded hole into cylinder head near the engine lifting eye that feeds hot water to the heater valve. Remember, this is a MkIV 1300 engine, which had a different water hose distribution path than the earlier Mk3's, which is the car I'm building. This particular engine therefore had a plug very tightly screwed into place that I had a Dickens of a time removing. In fact, it took several hours over several days. Aside from being practically welded into place, the location of the plug and the fact that it had a square head like an oil sump plug made removing it extremely difficult. In retrospect, an eight-point a.k.a. "double-square" 7/16 socket would have probably worked best, since there are no square drives that small on the market.

I applied heat, penetrating oil, smacked the plug with a hammer a few times and finally got it to start turning by hammering a two-small metric socket head fully over the head of the plug which by this time I had managed to deform quite badly. The brute method was truly my last resort before having to dismantle the head and take it to a machine shop in order to extract the plug. What a pain.

As you can see from the photo above, the new windshield is in, and the crash pad is in place, but not yet bolted down. The vinyl upholstery on both the crash pad and front facia turned out very nicely. I have also managed to connect most of the wiring, with the exception of the overdrive unit and relay, which are a little intimidating for me, but hopefully I'll have that taken care of soon also.

The brakes are fully bled, the wheels are on the car and for the first time since the body tub has been back, the car is off the jack stands for the time being, but a pending pinion seal replacement and emergency brake installation will find it back up on the stands before too long.

Though windshield wiper motor turned out nice, didn't it? It's an old motor that I repainted with Hammerite black, but the base amount is semi-gloss black like the rest of the brackets in the engine compartment. I did not this assemble the heater motor to paint it. I just did some careful masking.

It's been difficult to find the correct badge retainers in order to install the TRIUMPH lettering on the bonnet and boot, and I've made the rather grim discovery that the "Spitfire" and "Mk3" boot badges do not align with the original holes in the boot lid. I managed to get the "Spitfire" badge on OK, more or less, but the other one is going to be a problem that I'm not certain how to address just yet. But I'm thinking about it...

Even though I am anxious to get everything put together and turn the key on the ignition for the first time, finances won't permit me to have this car finished, probably before the new year. I'm just going to take my time and do things right. Come next spring, I will be ready to have some fun with this car.

This weekend, I hope to have the steering column installed, but I need to dismantle it and repaint the various pieces first.

10/19/02 -- To illustrate how obsessed I am with this rebuild, note the cover for the fuel pump and the spacer for the starter motor. I buffed both to a high shine just for appearances sake. The fuel pump is the OEM AC Delco with the priming lever. I found it new at a local British Parts yard. Regarding the spacer on the starter, I have that obviously, but I've also seen shims for the starter being marketed, and I don't know if I need one or not, or if this spacer is actually the part being referenced as a shim. If anyone knows, please clue me in before I try to start this motor!

I've run into another serious setback. The operating pin for the throwout arm for the clutch was not fed through the opening in the bell housing, so I cannot fit the slave cylinder until I can get that actuator pin into position. I won't be able to do that unless I can find a way to force the throwout arm forward an inch or so to allow me to free the pin and pull it into position. I've tried various methods, but they've all failed. Basically, I need a hydraulic jack that operates horizontally, so I can use the ram to push that arm back, which takes more force than I'm physically able to muster by myself -- and I'll bet you couldn't do it either. ;-)

While I ponder that problem, and try my best to figure out a solution short of pulling the transmission (ugh!), I decided to install the steering column. But first, I had to completely dismantle and refurbish the thing, which I bought secondhand. It was originally fitted to a Mk1 that was badly abused and left in the open for who knows how many years. The turn signal stalk was still there (and hopefully functional -- I haven't run a continuity check yet) but the stalk for the column light switch was broken off. Fortunately, I have a NOS replacement and those things are hard to come by.

I removed the plastic escutcheons, which have seen better days, and then the switches. I unbolted the lower steering shaft, hit it with a wire brush, primed with etching primer and then painted black. I also removed the upper steering shaft. The steering column was a mess with chipped paint, so I used some aerosol Aircraft stripper, which removed the finish from the aluminum column in just a few minutes. Then I rinsed with water, dried it, hit it with a coat of etching primer, and then decided to use black Hammerite instead of the stock gloss black. Turned out nice. I found a Mk3 cover plate complete with light holder for the pressure warning device, and spacer plate that fits adjacent to it, and after cleaning them both off real good, shot them with a new coat of black crinkle paint.

Once everything was dried after a few hours, I first installed the lower shaft onto the flexible coupler, which in turn is connected to the steering rack. Then I installed the new light switch to the column, and realized that I really needed the turn signal switch installed before I got too far into putting everything back together. But the problem is that the stalk and plastic flipper on the end of the turn signal had suffered over exposure to the elements. The black sheath covering the stalk itself was okay, but the flipper was rough and light gray in appearance.

Before ...and after

I discovered an excellent method to restore the worn plastic, which I've posted here on the TTN. Tomorrow I'll be installing the turn signal switch after checking continuity and then the rest of the steering column assembly. Update: I wound up purchasing a new turn signal switch and will keep the cosmetically restored one as a spare.

10/30/02 -- A close friend came over on Saturday and we tried to make a lever out of wood and press the clutch pin fork back far enough to release the pin, but after an hour or more of struggling with lumber, bottle jacks, etc., we came to the conclusion that the throwout arm had reached maximum travel and bottomed out -- still not allowing enough room to free the clutch pin from the bellhousing. My pal had a good idea though, that will save me from having to pull the engine or transmission entirely. I'll support the engine under the sump with lumber and a jack, place a rolling floor jack under the transmission, unbolt the bellhousing from the engine, unbolt the front driveshaft, and slide the transmission back just an inch or a few -- whatever it takes to free the pin. Others suggested replacing the top bolts on the bellhousing with longer studs, to help keep the transmission shaft aligned for easier replacement. Great idea. That's what I'll do.

Recently, I've managed to repair the speedometer that I'm fitting to the car and all the gauges are now installed on the newly finished facia panel. The woodwork is beautiful. It's a red maple burl that was selected to match the wood formula wheel that I'll soon be fitting. I can't wait to complete the wiring and get everything hooked up. Note that the odometer has been rolled back to 00000. That's because the actual mileage of the body/frame are unknown and also to reflect the current condition of the vehicle in which literally everything has been stripped, refinished, rebuilt or replaced. I also wanted to have an easier time keeping track of mileage for maintenance purposes. So whenever I'm asked, I'll say that the odometer reflects "total miles since rebuid -- original total mileage unknown." Since the car is over ten years old and no record of the actual original mileage exists (the speedometer came from a different car, to boot), I am within the law and legally permitted by the State of California to do this.

In addition to the odometer, also note the temperature gauge is non-standard also. It is a NOS Jaeger temp gauge with three temperature ranges like the earlier Spitfires were fitted with, but this one also has the red color cue in the hot range of the face. I rather like the way this gauge looks. I'm beginning to fear that the large cutout under the speedometer is something the PO did, but I'll know soon enough when I try to fit the washer assembly. If this hole is too large, I'll probably fit a later style washer/wiper switch assembly and use the larger hole to accomodate a 12v outlet for a cell phone, or other accessory use.

I also purchased the water tube adapter that replaces the plug on the cylinder head, and finally, the heating/cooling circuit is now complete. The boot handle has been installed and once I get the clutch pin into proper position, the rest of the assembly should go fairly quickly.

11/6/02 -- Okay! The clutch pin has been repositioned correctly. Finally. Today. Over the last few days, I'd taken my time in removing the bellhousing bolts, which is a bit tougher to deal with once the engine is installed! So... I removed three or four a couple of days ago, another three or four yesterday, then removed the starter motor, positioned a hydraulic bottle jack with a flat, square piece of remnant wood under the oil pan, and another short length of scrap 2x4 under the transmission, lifting the transmission slightly with a rolling floor jack.

I removed the rear transmission mounts, and also found it necessary to unbolt both ends of the driveshaft, then slide the driveshaft back and out of the way. I placed a long bolt in the top hole of the bellhousing to keep it aligned with the engine block, made some small adjustments to the jacks holding up the engine and transmission, and then wriggled the transmission loose and back about an inch or so, which turned out to be plenty of room to push the throwout fork back with my finger, creating plenty of room to pivot the clutch pin into the correct position to accept the clutch slave cylinder. I installed the top three and two side bolts in the bellhousing, and will install the rest of them tomorrow before deliberating on whether or not to replace the pinion seal on the differential while I have the driveshaft disconnected anyway... I'm anxious to install and bleed the clutch soon, and finish things up enough to drive this car!

As the photo above illustrates, the trunk handle is in, and all the rear lights, including the licence plate illumination. I'm having a terrible time with the Spitfire Mk3 badging however, as the replacement badges do not line up well with the original holes. I've managed to break both badges and it appears like I may have to drill new holes, have the original holes filled, and the boot lid repainted. We'll see. Note that the amber turn signals are not the original fixtures, which for the U.S. market, were red, larger, and resting atop angled rubber plinths. Amber was the European spec and what I had on my '67 RHD Spitfire. So I decided to stay with amber, but chose the same fixture that's used for the back-up lights (or the front turn signals on Mk1 and Mk2 Spitfires). This results in a much cleaner, more uniform, and dare I say "deliberate" appearance. The brake/tail lens are the unusual ones that were fitted near the end of the Mk3 run in 1970. The have a longer barrel, different reflector pattern and the entire lens lights up.


Click here for part II -- the final installment on assembly...

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