Windscreen frame …?

As each month comes to an end I think “not much happened this month” but then I start to write this blog and find that jobs are getting started and finished and so progress of a kind is being made.
During September, I was finding any sort of job to do as long as it wasn’t related to the windscreen frame removal! With the engine coming home in August, I have been trying to fit various bits and pieces back on, starting with the manifolds. I had bought new stainless steel manifolds from David Gerald some months ago and now was the time to see how good a fit they are.

The nearside manifold fitted perfectly but the offside had one pipe which didn’t quite align. I thought that maybe I would need to open out the fixing holes a bit but there wasn’t much meat around the hole so had to resort to stretching the pipe to fit. Without the bodywork in the way, it was surprisingly easy to get a lever through the lower bolt hole and pull the pipe forward enough to get the bolt in. Once nipped up, this aligned the bottom hole so that the lower bolt went straight in. Nice when problems resolve themselves that easily!
But as soon as they do, something else pops up to grab your attention. This time it was the oil filter that wouldn’t fit since the engine mount stud was in the way. At first I thought maybe the filter was the wrong diameter but looking at other Essex engines at the Pre-80’s Extravaganza I can see that they are all a close fit. The mounts that I fitted were circular cross section rather than rectangular and the spacer that I had removed when taking out the engine would not fit back in. A trial fit of a similar spacer indicated that this might just create enough clearance so hopefully this problem will go away once I have made up some spacers that will fit (or modified the old ones).

With nice shiny manifolds fitted (they might still take a bit more of a polish) I turned to the old stainless steel exhaust I had fitted way back in 1982 (bought from JP Exhausts with a lifetime warranty – and yes, I still have the receipt!). I remember that I had always had a problem sealing the joints properly and that I had made a bit of a mess of them by cutting slots in them with a hacksaw and ended up having to get them welded together. The rear pipes and one front pipe were still welded to their respective boxes but the front and rear boxes had separated. They were also quite badly stained so I thought the first thing to do would be to see if they would clean up since they may then still be usable without letting the car down. Two rotary wire brushes later, I was able to confirm that they would buff up nicely – as this before and after picture shows – with quite a nice shine on the tail-pieces.

I still wasn’t ready to tackle the windscreen frame removal, so switched to experimenting with the best method to strip the paintwork back to the gel-coat. This is necessary since almost every surface has blistered, almost certainly due to damp. Some of the blisters still contained water and an earlier experiment with the boot lid showed that below each blister was a pin-hole that penetrated even the primer. With the boot lid, I had been able to use a scraper to remove the top lacquer layer and then the metallic grey coat but the primer was probably too soft to scrape off easily. Having re-read the Miles Wilkins bible on fibreglass repairs, I found that he was recommending plain old P80 used dry to get the paint off followed up with P220 and P320 used wet. The following photo-sequence shows how I tackled one of the doors.
Here’s the original condition of the door paintwork showing the blistering (if you look closely!).

I had already started scraping the other door and this picture shows that the pin-holes below the blisters also go through the primer – seen here as the black dots in the green coat.

The brown areas are where I have managed to scrape through the primer to the gel-coat but this was hard work and sometimes I gouged the gel surface so decided to switch to P80, dry.

This managed to get down to the gel-coat fairly quickly but did result in a mottled and rough surface. The most difficult bit was the door handle recess since this took around 45 minutes to do with a consequent decline in the will to live.
Next up was then P240 used wet (I couldn’t find P220) which was hard work to remove some of the marks caused by the P80 but ended up with quite a smooth surface which should improve even further with some P320 again used wet.

There’s still plenty to do but I’m now fairly confident that I’ve found the right way to get the paint off so had a go at the boot lid and the rear part of the bodywork. This proved to be harder work than it should have been since there was a mass of filler on the boot lid which was not exactly flat so needed the filler to be sanded to remove the paint in all the valleys. I assume they needed so much filler since the mould for the boot lid may not have delivered a flat product.
There were similar areas of filler on the body near the 4 corners of the boot opening. This filler was a darker grey colour compared to the cream coloured filler on the boot lid so not sure what that means at the moment. At least all the filler was below the primer coat so is unlikely to be accident damage repairs.

Still one more job to squeeze in before the windscreen frame gets addressed. I had made contact with ex-TVR trimmer, John Giddings who heads up The Trim Technician in Blackpool and agreed to get all the trim panels and seats to him so that he can work on them over the winter. There’s an opportunity to visit him on his Open Day on 27th October (Martin Lilley is guest) so I needed to get the rear parcel shelf sorted before then. The plywood used for this had turned to tissue paper over the years so I decided to replace it with marine ply. Finding a suitably sized piece without breaking the bank wasn’t easy but eventually found a supplier and took delivery of a 1200x600mm piece that was soon cut down to size. The next step was to get the fixing holes measured up which is when I found that there are no square edges and absolutely no symmetry in the tub design (am I surprised?) so no reference points to take measurements from, which all resulted in copying the hole measurements on the old parcel shelf. The reason I didn’t want to do this initially, was that the hole positions were not symmetrical so thought I could do better. In the end, I copied the old dimensions and if there is an issue, I can always adjust the fixing holes in the tub.

So, by this time, I had given a lot of thought to the windscreen frame removal and replacement and came to the conclusion that I needed to jig the position of the current screen before removal. I had wanted to do this with bits of metal but since I don’t have the tools or skill, I decided to make something up from wood since at least I have a saw and a screwdriver. The result is not very sophisticated but uses a frame bolted to the dash through the air vent fixing holes and locates the top of the frame at a couple of the 2BA fixing holes for the outer screen frame.

This proved a fairly stable structure and would fix the position of the top rail of the new frame. To fix the bottom, I reasoned that I would just need to measure from the front edge of the scuttle to the centre of the hole in the sawn off mountings. Thinking about this over a cup of tea and convincing myself that the theory was sound, I went back out and hacked off the old frame level with the top of the scuttle.

I now just have the old mounting tubes to remove and bond in the new tubes.

The plan at the moment is to drill around the tube so that it can be pulled out, leaving the remains of the flange still laminated in but more importantly, leaving the laminations that held the old tube in place still intact (thanks go to Rudy for all the info on how to do this). The new tube and mounting flange can then be mounted from the top using the old laminations as a reference. This would require the removal of some of the fibreglass above the old flange to accommodate the flange and then re-laminating from the top. At the moment, that doesn’t seem impossible but let’s see what October brings.

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