Driving a 1954 Austin-Healey 100/4 from Peking to Paris in the June 2019 ERA Rally.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

0043 Finishing the body panels

11th March 2018
At last ready to paint all the body panels !

The door at the bginning
Since the car came back to my house from Classic Car Clinic
Same door at the end
about 10 days ago, I have spent the entire time working on the body panels - de-rusting them, stripping the paint and old bog, re-bogging the recent welds and old damaged areas, and priming them. Finally after 10 days of non-stop work, with sore fingers, tired legs from standing all day, and with bog dust everywhere in the garage, the panels are "finished" and ready for painting in Coronet Cream, after which they can be bolted back onto Gidget and the final mechanical work completed.  Time to line up the painter !

The rear shroud almost finished
I write "finished" in inverted commas because I readily admit the panels are not perfect like you might expect from a professional body shop.  But Ashton and I have discussed this, and if we were to try to get a more "perfect finish", not only would it take a lot longer (and time is already against us), but also, because some of the panels are so damaged, we would have had to put back on as much bog as we have taken off, and that would mean a lot of weight !  We have taken off so many layers of bog and paint, I wish there was a way I could have weighed it all, because we have filled several garbage bags with it.  To replace it I have
Bogging & sanding a door
applied the new bog only on the really bad areas, and then only as thin as I could manage, so I think there is a lot less bog in the car now.  Additionally there is now only an undercoat and a 2 pack top coat - It has to be considerably lighter than previously where there were 4 or 5 layers of paint.  There will obviously be some imperfections visible on the body work, but with the kind of rugged environment to which the car will be exposed, and also the fact that half the car is going to be covered in rally stickers (and hopefully some from sponsors !), we feel that a perfect finish on the body work is not really vital.   Having said that, hopefully it will still look perfectly respectable - From a little distance !!

Storage & battery box mock ups
While I have been working on the panels, I have also been taking time to work and plan other things on the car that still need attention.  With Andrew busy on other jobs much of the time, I contacted Alan Huish, a good friend of mine here on the Gold Coast who used to have his own metal and fabrication business, but sold out a few years ago to spend more time on the road enjoying life !   Back in 2011 he made some brackets and other items for my Elise for my Arctic Expedition, and 2 years later he made some other items for my Toyota for the Tierra del Fuego trip, including my novel bike rack which worked so well.  I called
Battery fitted into battery box
him up and found he was currently in town, and very happy to do some work on the car from his mobile workshop.  He came over for a chat and we looked initially at the battery box and a matching waterproof storage box to fit down around the rear axle, taking some measurements away with him.  We tend to think similarly, so we bounce ideas and potential solutions around before deciding on a final way of doing things.  A couple of days later, Alan came back with his draft boxes.

Test fitting battery box near rear axle
The battery box was perfect, and after marking out the location for access holes for the cables, and ensuring it fitted and still cleared the diff as well as everything else down in the back, we moved on to the storage box  It was slightly too big near the diff, so we decided to just cut the corner down rather than remaking the entire box, and this would ensure sufficient clearance in the rear void while maintaining the maximum possible volume for storage.

The battery will have dense rubber cushioning underneath and on the sides to ensure it is well protected from the bumps, and the lid will make it virtually waterproof.  The cables will pass through rubber grommets in order to seal the holes, and with the battery being a tight fit in the box, we will have a small strap (which I found on my shelves) around it permanently so it is easy to lift in and out.

Rear hatch cover in place
The storage box will have a hinged lid that will be fastened by two small tool box clips that will hold it firmly closed and aid its waterproofing by pulling the lid down tight onto its rubber seal, and will also make it lockable.  Once Alan had the measurements he needed to finish them off, we looked at a couple of other
Rear hatch cover sliding into place
things.  The lid that covers this rear axle area and seals it from the cabin was originally hinged, but with the spare wheel protruding over the lid, there isn't enough space above it for the lid to hinge any more, so I have decided to make some little fixed tabs on the back of the lid which will just slide horizontally into slots that I will cut into the frame, and then we will use the same style tool box clips to fasten it down tightly.  So Alan took the lid away to grind off the existing hinges and to weld on the 3 little tabs.

He also took the jack.  If you remember, instead of the original big and heavy scissor jack we have taken a Mercedes wind up jack and Andrew had welded tubing into the chassis on each side for the jack to slot in to.  However, when we finally had the car on its wheels and could test the jack, we found that it was only operating in the top half of its 18 inch movement range, because the tube socket on the car was higher than it would be on a Mercedes.  (Maybe because we now have such great ground clearance !!)   This meant that while on a good hard surface the jack works well and raises the car high enough for both wheels to be well clear of the ground, in any rough condition, or if we were bogged and needed to raise the car higher, we might have a problem.  So we have decided on a simple and quick fix - we will insert 7 inches into the lower end of the shaft, which means we will then have the full 18 inches of lift available if we need it.   We have also decided to fasten a small stabiliser strip across the bottom of the jack front-to-rear, to minimise the chance of the car rolling off the jack.  So Alan took the jack with him and will come back in a couple of days with his work - By which time I will probably have found a few more little jobs for him to do !

Exposed wiring on floor inside cabin
I have also decided that the cables, wiring, brake and fuel lines
Cables inside conduit
that run down the inside of the cabin, held in place with cable clips, are a little bit too exposed, so I bought some of the plastic conduit that has a clip top from Bunnings, and will insert the wires and tubes into that. The conduit can be screwed to the floor using the same screws that currently attach the clips, so no change there - Just more protection for everything in the cabin.  Unfortunately the conduit is white, so I will need to paint it black to match the carpet otherwise the inside will start to look like a Collingwood supporters car !  While I was in Bunnings, I inspected
Possible rubber floor matting
some rubber matting.  We are looking at internal floor mats that are removable and give us a stable yet comfortable foot hold when in the car, and which can also be removed to use as traction mats in mud or sand if we get stuck.  As a result they need to be smooth enough to be comfortable as a footrest day after day, yet both strong enough and contoured enough to provide grip under the wheels without falling apart.  In addition they need to be easy to clean.  I saw one that looked promising and we will add it to the possible list.

Oil & water temp gauges
I also went down to Supercheap and bought a 52 mm guage bracket for mounting the oil temp guage.  I have decided to mount this separately and not wait until the "new" dash is finished, as I cannot put oil in the engine until the hole in the sump for the temperature sender is fitted tightly in place. I then made up a template for the new dash, and started to plan its shape.  Unfortunately, when in place, you really do loose sight of everything that is behind - All the fuses, the little parcel shelf, the USB chargers, etc.  The question is whether the dash is more important than all the stuff behind, or whether I can lean down far enough to see everything if I need to !  Hmmmm.

Working on the driver's door
And today I effectively finished preparing the panels.  The last one was the driver's door, which if you remember had thick bog and lots of damage to it.  Having painted the inside with POR 15 preciously in an attempt to limit the advance of rust, and stripped the outside over the past 2 days, I finally started adding bog today, sanding, adding bog, sanding, adding bog, until it started to look reasonable.  Unfortunately there is just SO much damage to the door that short of putting a thick layer of bog over the whole door, there is no way of getting the surface flat.  So I have worked on
Bagging the top of the door
the worst of it, including the entire top sill, and feel that it will be acceptable.  Final action for all the panels was to buy some blade putty, which is like bog but does not need mixing with hardner, which makes it a lot easier to use it in small amounts and quickly apply it to the many tiny air holes in the bog to give a smoother finish.  It also works on any other uneven areas like scratches in the paint or metal,  making the surface ready for painting.  After some 10 days, I have totally had enough of the bodywork, so it is not before time that I feel I am at last finished.

Panels ready for the painter
But there is one last test - Have the panels really been prepared well enough for painting, or will the painters have to do everything all over again, further delaying the paint job and increasing its cost ?  To check the answer, I called up a neighbour who runs a panel beating and painting business, and asked him to come over to check out the panels and give me his expert opinion.   Out of interest, Steve last saw Gidget 9 months ago when she had just arrived from Sydney, and was in one piece.  He knew we had experienced unexpected dramas over the past 9 months, but he was stunned when he walked in and saw the car, and all the detailed work we had done on it.  Also running a Triumph Stag of his own, and currently totally rebuilding an older Porsche, he fully appreciated what we have gone through and what we have achieved.  Most importantly, he thought the panels were in excellent condition, and said any painter would be more than happy to accept them in their current condition, and be able to paint them straight away.  Obviously he reminded me that any of the imperfections would show up in the final paintwork, but he agreed with our assessment that to spend the time and effort making  the bodywork on this car concours would be a waste of time. As a result, tonight I am SO relieved, and tomorrow will load up a couple of the panels in the car and take them to the 2 or 3 paint shops I have lined up and see who has the time to tackel the job as quickly as possible.  Lets hope they have some space in their schedules............

Gold Coast Paint & Panel
The next morning I set off, with a couple of the panels loaded in the car, and the first painter I went to was the one that had painted the chassis a couple of months ago, and done such a good job - Gold Coast Paint and Panel, and Darran.   He is such a nice guy, and remembered doing the chassis, although he admitted he wasn't a fan of the Coronet Cream colour, although once I told him the story of it being a special and rare colour to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, he understood.  And asked whether having the panels finishe by next Tuesday would be early enough ? (Today is Thursday).  We agreed on a price, and I said I would
Panels hung up for painting
start bringing all the panels over from the house immediately - And he asked for an extra 2 litres of paint if we wanted to paint the inside of the front shroud and bonnet in body colour.  On the way to pick up the panels from home I dropped into the paint shop, and they promised to mix up another 2 litres of Coronet Cream by the next morning, and I then took the other panels over to Gold Coast Paint & Panel.   Only trouble was when I got to the front and rear shrouds on the 4th delivery run, they were too big to fit into Troopie !!   So I called Steve and arranged to borrow his ute first thing in the morning to get the paint and the last panels over.  When I got to the paint shop, Darran told me he had already undercoated all the panels I had already delivered !!  I needed to move faster if I was to keep up with him !   It was great to see all the panels hanging up on their frame work, resplendent in their undercoat. 

Next morning Steve came over and we delivered the front and rear shrouds, and I picked up the paint and delivered it to Darren, and left him to it.  Lots to do in the meantime.......

It was SO good to have a bit of room to move in the garage, and to not be creating any more dust from sanding bog !  I spent the next 2 hours sweeping and mopping out the garage and trying to get the worst of the dust off everything - And then got on with the car.    Alan had come back with the jack, but now it was a little bit too long, so we agreed to take a couple of inches out of it to make it more flexible.  He also brought back the rear lid over the diff, with the new tabs on, so I set to cutting the slots in the panel behind the seats - And realised I had made a major misjudgement - I had forgotten that instead of just a thin metal panel there, underneath it was the 1" square reinforcing tube that Andrew had inserted to support the additional weight of the new spare wheel sitting up on top of that panel !!   Whoops !   As a result, what I had expected to be a quick 5 minute dremel job took several hours as I tried to also cut the slot into the reinforcing tube as well !  All done eventually, not without a few issues, and I also ended up drilling a hole and inserting a bolt to tie everything together and maintain its strength.  With a little bit of judicious bending of the tabs, the lid fitted perfectly, and after inserting some heat / sound insulation inside, and covering the outside with the same black marine carpet I am using elsewhere, it all looked great.  Will use 2 toggle clips to lock it down in place.

Pulleys not lining up
While Alan was there, we looked at the alternator bracket which just
Flange inside pulley
needed some welding to make it more supportive, and while we were looking at it, we installed the new water pump pulley for the first time, and realised that the lower crankshaft pulley didn't quite line up with it.  Using a straight edge, it look like about 5 mm out.  So we left the alternator bracket for now, and I took off the pulley to take over to Steve. The next day, we decided that the easiest solution was to put the pulley on a lathe and machine off the small protruding internal flange that was about 5mm thick, and then try it again.  More later, as obviously this is rather important to get right before we can start the engine.

For the next 3 days I have enjoyed not having to work on the body panels, and slowly worked through a seemingly endless list of small but important items that needed attention.

Mock up of added dash panel
I have been working through the interior carpeting, using a light marine carpet, which will make the whole interior a more enjoyable place to sit in every day for 36 days, while also making sure that there are less rattles and panel noises when on the move.  I also started work on the new dash panel, which will give us more space on which to mount our various rally gauges and instruments.  I had realised that in standard format, there was just
Gauges mounted on panel
nowhere to mount anything - I would have to hold everything in my hands - Not acceptable !   So I came up with the idea of inserting a new panel across the central void in the dash, and after a couple of cardboard templates, went to work to shape a piece from alloy plate. There is a grab handle bolted through the dash on the left side, and a support bolt and a couple of switches on the right, and by using these bolts and switches to hold the panel tightly in place, it will work well.  I intend to paint the panel black first, and then cover the front of it with velcro, and with the opposite velcro on the back of the rally gauges, they can not only mount firmly on the dash, but can also be quickly and easily removed with one hand either for adjustment or for security reasons.  My phone is held in my cars on velcro, and in all my travels on dirt roads has never once come off, so I am confident this method will work.

Brackets after priming
I also had a cable in a sleeve to attach to the air vent inlet to open and close it - Unfortunately no bracket to fix it to !  I had left a hole in the firewall for the cable to pass through, so just needed to fabricate a bracket to support the cable.  Luckily there was another support bracket already in place supporting the dash, so once I had made up a new bracket and twisted it to the correct shape, I drilled two holes to fix it firmly to the dash support, using a bolt pattern that would negate any twisting.  Once made up and test fitted, I painted it with primer and then black paint so that it would look correct when in place.

I then fitted the new oil temp guage to the dash in a separate mount, attaching it under the dashboard.
Temp gauge wires passing through firewall
The sender unit was then threaded though one of two existing holes left in the firewall behind the (new) fire extinguishers, and on down to the sump where it will be screwed into the threaded hole in the sump.   I also fitted the water temp guage into its existing slot in the dash, again feeding the sender unit through the second hole in the firewall left for this purpose, and once both these capillary tubes were in place, I installed the rubber grommets which we had put in place to seal the holes properly.

Sewing up wiring heat sleeve
There was some heat shield tube around wiring in the engine bay which needed sewing up.  The wires and associated junctions were too large to fit through the heat shield tubing, so I had unstitched it all, and then restitched it around the wires.  I just needed to finish off the last section now that the wiring was all in place, as this heat shielding will not only protect the wiring loom from engine and exhaust heat, but will also protect it from moisture ingress.  The previous wiring in the car was quite severely melted in places from the exhaust heat, so hopefully this will prevent this happening again.  Supposedly it will withstand 1000 deg F of radiant heat and 500 deg F of direct heat, so it should be good.

Bracket on side of electircs box
Due to the lack of places to put things in the car, having a place where we can firmly mount stuff is paramount. Another location I have determined  can be used is on the passenger side of the electrical box. By mounting an L shaped bracket there, I planned to be able to fit a phone of a gauge there, but on closer examination, I realised there was also room to fit a small voltmeter there, useful to enable us to continuously monitor the battery charging.  I have a similar unit
Cutting holes for gauge and switch
mounted in my Toyota and it is a very cheap and quick way of being confident the alternator is working properly and the batery is charging at all times.  Its a small push-in digital unit, so I cut a hole in the top of the bracket and jig-sawed and filed it out to the correct size.  I had also purchased a small on/off rocker switch
Switch and voltmeter
because I knew from experience that you do not need the gauge lit up all the time, so I also cut a slot for the switch as well - It will all sit neatly down on the bracket, easily operated and visible to both of us. After drilling the holes in the bracket and on the side of the electrical box,  I painted the bracket satin black like everything else.

Engine & Chassis details plaque
Lastly I prepared the small Healey plaque which I had bought some months ago that I had had engraved with the engine and chassis numbers.  These items are stamped on the engine and on a plaque way down on the chassis rail where, as with most cars, they are almost impossible to see or read clearly.  A lesson learned from crossing many minor international borders is that if there is an easy way for customs officers to check the cars details, they appreciate it and one passes through more quickly and easily.  This plate will be mounted in full view up on the firewall in the engine bay.

There are lots more small jobs to be done, and I am taking the opportunity to work my way through them all slowly while the body panels are being painted, because once they come back, I will be busy putting them back on, and many of these activities will be much harder to do once the panels are all back on. So plenty to keep me busy as we move rapidly towards getting Gidget back on the road at last !

Rest of the pics are here :- https://photos.app.goo.gl/b28ZWRE21oVpQDns2

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Ashton & Giles welcome any visitors, support, and comments as we prepare for our Adventure !