Union Jack

Restoration of My 1967 AH Sprite MK4

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Note: Each photo below can be clicked for a larger view

Chapter VI -- Prepare the Body for Paint

Back in the body work stage, I got the front wings, bonnet and boot lid in epoxy. Then I loosely assembled them onto the car to ensure everything would fit properly. The bonnet hinges and off side door lower hinge require minor adjustment. The boot and wings appear all right as is. Satisfied, I then removed everything back to the storage room until ready for final paint prep.

With that done, the next step was to strip the rest of the body, essentially everything that won't come off the platform except the near side rear wing that was already epoxied, here. The scuttle had a fair amount of surface rust but it all sanded off. There were some old, unfinished repairs at both ends of both sills but, again, not a significant concern. I found significant filler on the rear end and sanded it off to ensure there was no rust under it. It turned out to be a thin coat where the metal could have been finished better but the inside is already painted so I will reapply filler. Also hidden under the primer was a pretty good dent in the lower rear of the off side wing. This is hard to get to because of structural bits and, again, the inside is already painted. I pried against it a little to bring the biggest dents out but did not try to flatten the metal. It will also be filled.

The only real shock came when I got to the off side wing. I found a rather deep patch of filler, hidden under the primer, right in front of the wheel opening. By the time I got down to bare metal, there were three rusty through holes. This is all double panel build and the lower hole was also through the inner panel. The DPO had tried to repair rust through holes with bondo and hide it with primer. The details are here.

After getting everything stripped and the repairs made, I spent the better part of two days getting all the already painted bits carefully masked off. Here are a few pictures showing what it takes to protect the painted parts. The shot of the rear gives at least an idea of the filler required; it's really pretty thin. The right rear should show the dents left there but it is pretty hard to see. I put it up on jack stands for two reasons. The first was just to get it a little farther from the floor; the underside edge of the sills also needs to be painted. This also let me remove the wheels and tires to not have to mask them too.

Near side Rear Off side
A post Cockpit front Cockpit rear

With it all masked, i did get a couple of coats of epoxy on it. I somehow failed to get any pictures of the epoxy before I got some new filler on it but here it is at that point. On the left side you see a little filler on the sill for that old, unfinished repair. I had earlier applied the all metal filler before the epoxy and did not take the time to make it perfect. The little spot behind the wheel opening I discovered late. The scuttle and A post were just a little wavy. that looks like a lot on the back but it is very thin. On the right side, the sills are again finishing an old repair. The patch at the wheel opening is rebuilding the flare. At the rear is that dent mentioned above. These are all now ready for block sanding.

Epoxy and filler Epoxy and filler Epoxy and filler

Here we are after block sanding and ready for a couple more coats of epoxy before switching to Slick Sand by Evercoat, the same high build polyester primer we used on Dick's Model A, here. I guide coated it twice to get to this point.

Block sanded Block sanded Block sanded

After a few days delay, I was finally able to get back to the Sprite. I scrubbed it down twice with the SPI water borne metal prep after doing a couple of small touch up things. Then I applied two more coats of epoxy over everything. With that, it is ready for the high build primer/surfacer but it has to wait at least 48 hours. This is Friday so maybe Monday. Except, it also needs to be below 80 degrees. That may not happen even in the middle of the night. So anyway, here it is with its, hopefully, last full application of epoxy.

Last epoxy Last epoxy Last epoxy

I said 80 degrees above. Well, that is the ideal, between 70 and 80.The absolute maximum is probably more like 85. Anything above that and the kick off time is so short that you run the risk of it at least gelling in the gun. The highs these days are still in the upper 80s I decided that if I could get an early enough start, I should be able to paint the small amount of metal here before it got too hot. So I started today at 7:00 AM and put 3 coats of Slick Sand. By 8:42, I had finished and cleaned the equipment. Here it is with the light gray material over most of the white epoxy. I think I learned a little on the Model A and managed to get it sprayed somewhat wetter this time. Maybe I won't have to sand off nearly as much this time.

In SlickSand In SlickSand In SlickSand

Engine bay Motor The next day I removed all the masking. It will probably be another month before I am ready, and the temperatures cooperate, for top coating. Then I got the wheels back on so it can be moved back to its own place and clear the common area. Well, I do have to apply Slick Sand to all the removable bits and need the paint booth for that. I think the doors will be all right. The off side wing probably needs a little attention although I straight boarded it over filler before epoxy. The boot lid has one corner that may need some help and the bonnet definitely has the ubiquitous hump from the air filter cans. Here is the body though showing the contrast between gray Slick Sand, white epoxy and yellow final paint. All right, these first two are not really of the body but you can see the scuttle in both so it counts. It took me a solid hour to get all that masking off. But I guess that is fairly small compared to the two full mornings it took to put it on.

Left side Reare Right side Cockpit back Cockpit front Nose

Wing epoxy Wing epoxy After too many days block sanding and filling and repeat from the top, I finally got the front wings in condition that I thought could justify high build primer/surfacer. The first step is to reapply a couple of coats of epoxy to cover any bare metal and provide rust protection. Unlike some other polyester products, Slick Sand cannot be applied over bare metal. While at it I thought I should get the fascia from storage and epoxy its face for high build too. Remember, I had to repair some unwanted holes the DPO put in it here. Here are a couple of shots of one of the wings. Note the straight lines and little texture in the light reflections. Yes, I did paint both wings and the fascia but the photos don't show much more than these. I probably said it before but I really like the semi-gloss finish this SPI epoxy leaves. It will show you some of those little flaws that flat or nearly flat epoxy will not.

Nose All in booth Four days later I finally got a day cool enough to safely shoot some Slick Sand, that is if I started at 7:00 AM. While waiting, that photo above reminded me that the nose also needed some high build surfacer and it has to be on the car with that already done to mount the wings. There was a large dent in it that required significant effort to repair, here. I removed it and included it in the paint session. It was already in epoxy so luckily that was not needed. I didn't include photos of the wings as they look just like those above except they are light gray instead of white and not as glossy. The left photo is the freshly painted part of the nose. The other is the whole paint area with the tent already raised. Closest is the fascia, then the nose and the wings are in the background.

Wing gap Well, I thought things were in order at that point. I reassembled the front end, starting with the nose, of course. Then I added the off side wing and determined that it fit quite well. Finally, I added the near side wing, expecting it to fit well also. Such was not to be the case, however. The back edge, against the scuttle looked good but the bottom, where it meets the sill showed way too much gap; see photo. The back gap was about one paint stick, similar to the rest of the car. The bottom gap ran from about two paint sticks at the back to well over two at the front. At first, I thought maybe the wing was somehow distorted at the back, too much curve at the shoulder. The bracing on the inside, however, pretty much eliminates that possibility. Finally, since I had never done any metal work on this panel and had never actually seen it on the car, I had to come to the conclusion that it had always been that way. The task then was to determine how to repair it.

I first thought of adding a thin strip of steel but the thought of welding on that already almost finished wing was not appealing at all. So, I determined to build it up with more of the all metal bondo, but starting tomorrow. Tomorrow came and after sanding off all the paint on the bottom edge, it occurred to me that JB Weld would be a stronger repair. That is what I used here on the back gap of the off side wing. It has steel for filler and is epoxy based, which really wants to stick to bare body metal. The problem is the viscosity of the stuff, or lack thereof actually. If you try to put it on too thick, it just runs off, even the 5 minute variety. I built a masking tape damn on the outer skin to prevent sagging that direction then built it up in several layers, usually sanding between. Even the 5 minute version takes 5 or so hours to get hard enough for sanding so it took a couple of days, or more.

Gap repaired Gap repaired The JB repair required test fitting a few times to get it right. It was an interesting process but I somehow failed to get any photos. Next was some all metal filler to make a clean, hidden transition between the JB Weld addition and the rest of the wing. A couple applications of that proved satisfactory. Finally, I added some regular bondo over that and farther up into the wing for better finish. After guide coating and block sanding, the repair looked complete. Of course, most of the high build primer has now been removed from the lower third of the wing. I will reapply that when I do the doors later.

Left door Right door The next piece of the puzzle was the doors. Like the wings, the back, or inner, sides were already finish painted. The outer skins were in epoxy primer with no body work having been done. The near side door had a few obvious but minor flaws to deal with whereas the off side had only one small dent. I sanded the epoxy a little and preliminarily filled the known low spots with regular bondo. After rough sanding that, I applied a guide coat and long block sanded until the guide coat disappeared. The near side required a second filling and subsequent guide coat. With that done the doors are now ready for another two coats of epoxy followed by two or three coats of high build polyester. The lower section of the near side wing (see previous paragraph) will get the same treatment.

A few distractions at home caused a week or so delay but I finally found a day to apply the epoxy. I ended up with three coats on both doors as well as the lower rear of the mentioned wing. Ok, I mixed a little too much paint and just found it difficult to pour it on the ground. Here they all are, ready for the Slick Sand high-build polyester surfacer. It is interesting how the camera rendered the colors. The epoxy is stark white and the polyester is light grey. The left door looks warm white but the right looks almost grey. The wing looks a little grey in the lower section where it is white and at least a lighter color in the upper where it is grey.

Left door Right door Wing patched

Left front Right front Well six days later I finally was able to get the Slick Sand applied. This was pushing the six day window on the epoxy so I did an extra 180 grit sanding before painting. I got three or four coats on everything. I thinned the polyester just a little again this time and I do believe it helps get a wet and somewhat self-leveling coat. Painting in a cool environment, about 72 deg F, probably helps too.

A couple more days and I had the parts back on the car. The wing was no problem, that is except for reaching that bolt on the inside partially covered by the dimmer switch making it impossible to get a socket on. It's also as far as my arm can reach from outside the car. The doors are more fiddly due to the two bolts at each hinge. They install in a recess making finger access quite difficult and the forward ones are also partially obscured by the inner skin. The left door sets too far inboard at the bottom, requiring adjusting the hinge at the A post. Thus far I have not been able to remove its screws. Apparently the PO was not able to either since he had the upper ones out and only signs of damaging the phillips screws on the lowers. The right door had yet another problem. It seemed to close all right but on opening, it interfered with the A post skin. This required elongating the bolt holes to let it move far enough back to clear. I had to buy a tool to do that.

Bonnet epoxy Boot epoxy I knew the bonnet had a couple of small humps near the front air filter can. I have heard this is a fairly common problem that somehow the can bumps the bonnet from the underside. Looking in through the grille opening, I don't see how it could happen unless a motor mount broke or some other similar incident. Anyway I did have humps and I was afraid I might have to heat shrink the metal to correct them, either that or have a significant bump on the back side. Since that is already final painted, neither option was very appealing. I guess I got lucky and was able to work both humps down with just a hammer and did not have to resort to either fore mentioned option. There were also some slight ripples along both sides with no access from behind. I filled these. The boot lid had some old filler that I removed and replaced which also required a little finish work. With this done, I finally got both pieces, the last two remaining pieces, into the paint booth and a few good coats of epoxy on them. After waiting the required 48 hours, I will apply a few coats of Slick Sand and they will be ready to install on the car. Funny thing, it took more time to mask the previously painted back sides of both pieces than it did to paint them.

Bonnet hi build Boot hi build After the requisite 48 hours hardening time for the epoxy, I got some Slick Sand on both pieces. That is two full coats on the boot lid and three on the bonnet. Then I ran out of paint. I hope that is enough. With that done I claim the prep work is 50% finished. I removed all the masking and mounted the boot lid on the car the next day. I had to elongate the bolt slots in one hinge for the bonnet to get a better fit to the scuttle, much like the door hinge a couple paragraphs above. It really helps to have three sets of hands to install the bonnet so maybe that will be tomorrow. Next is just a whole lot of sanding to get all the panels straight, flat and perfectly fit to their respective neighbors.

With that done, the next step was to install the newly painted parts and begin final fitting of all before block sanding the Slick Sand. Both the bonnet and boot lid will require some minor adjustment. Both doors are a little inboard at the bottom and I have not yet been able to move the bottom hinges to correct. The front wings fit rather nicely although the near side did need some rather strong coaxing at the bottom of the nose. Here it is with everything installed but no final adjustments yet made. That's Dick sitting on his Model A running board.

Off side Nose Near side Rear Boot open Cockpit

The "final adjustments" turned out to be minimal. Except for the above mentioned door hinge adjustments that will have to be done before final painting, the only problem area was the near side shoulder area of the scuttle. It was low of meeting the wing. Apparently it has always been that way and the PO just didn't notice or didn't care. That required a little more of the all metal filler as it did not have the Slick Sand.

Urethane filler After a few days waiting, I spent a few more days sanding with 180 grit on the longest boards possible just to remove any remaining texture from the Slick Sand. I don't think you can apply it nearly as smooth as paint; it just doesn't flow. For sure I can't or have not been able to so far although I have learned to apply it much better than I did on Dick's Model A.

After 320 After getting it down to "smooth", I sanded to 220 grit, this time with a guide coat and the longest boards possible. After going over the whole car, I found a dozen plus low spots that just would not sand out. I never hit bare metal surrounding them but did sand through the Slick Sand into the underlying epoxy. Some fill of at least a few thousandths would be required. Lance, my adviser at LM Auto Color, said "use urethane high build". It can't build as high as the polyester but is much more controllable. I have used it before and find that to be true. I finally got past a couple of other distractions and got it back in the paint booth to apply 4 heavy wet coats to those spots. Sanding it off in the next few days will tell how well it worked. This photo is of the worst spot on the car, that front wing that I overworked so much trying to repair the damage I actually did. I am really pleased that the big, nearly flat bonnet only had two minor spots. finally, here is the same area after sanding the urethane flat with 220 grit then the whole car with 320. It is no time for the actual finish paint.

This chapter is now complete