A labour of love

Left hand side rebuild part 4 and finishing up the rear end

Left hand side rebuild part 4 and finishing up the rear end

At last, the much delayed “final” part of the left hand side bodywork rebuild! In the last installment I had just fitted the new wheel arch assembly, so the next job was to clean up the welds, and then strip back and zinc prime all of the seams I was planning to spot weld.

The spot welder is working a treat so far, desperately wish I had invested in one way back at the beginning of this project – it’s miserable to think of all the hours of plug welding and grinding back I’ve consumed in that time. The quality of the spot welds is directly related to the quality of the prep work though, so it’s not all plain sailing – getting rid of every trace of paint from the joint and applying only a light coating of weld-through primer seems to be key.

That done, I broke out the Jotun Hardtop Flexi again and painted all of the internal surfaces of both the inner wing and wheel arch, and the outer wing panel itself. I have decided to stick to my guns and ultimately paint the car in its original Bracken colour, so this shade is not quite correct, but most of it will never be seen and it will offer a lot of protection – I’ll spray over the visible bits with the right colour when I paint the inside of the car later on.

Quick trial fit of the tailgate to check the gaps look good and then on with welding the wing on. I won’t go into detail on this as it’s all the same as the other side. Annoyingly this panel has picked up a few small dents during the years it’s been in storage, so a bit of filler work is probably required later on.

Wing done, there are a few smaller jobs I still needed to do on both sides that I hadn’t yet got to, so now seemed like the ideal opportunity to tick them off before moving onto the next big job.

Way back in time when I first started removing the old rear wings, I salvaged the old tailgate support brackets by just roughly cutting them out of the old panels. As far as I know these are still not available new, so I decided to clean them up and refit them to the new panels.

The flanges on these are not very robust, so I very carefully removed the old spot welds by gently drilling through from the “scrap” side and prising them apart, and then cleaned them up as much as possible on the bench grinder. Here’s a before and after shot.

Fortunately I had scribed the mounting positions onto the new C-post panels before I cut the brackets off of the old ones, so with them drilled for plug welding I clamped them into place.

Welded in, ground back and cleaned up a bit more they looked almost as good as new.

Next job was to look at the roof drain channels, which run most of the length of the roof and down the edge of the C-panel to the rear window corner. Like everything else near those rear window corners on my car, these had disintegrated in that area too, so I had bought new Heritage ones at the same time as I bought the wings.

On both sides, most of the channel was completely intact apart from that corner and around the roof/wing joint, so I decided to only use smaller sections of the new parts and graft them in. This avoids having to disturb the perfectly good spot welds where the B-post meets the bottom of this channel, so saves a lot of unnecessary work (woah, I’m finally learning that replacing a whole panel is not always the best idea!).

I carefully cut the new panel where it will meet the remainder of the old one and clamped it in place to check fit (I’m deliberately doing this job before removing the old roof panel so that I have a good point of reference, even though it would be easier to do it with the roof gone).

I butt-welded the joint with the existing channel, and spot welded the flange which forms the lip for the rear quarter-light seal. I used high-strength automotive glue to bond the outer joint with the C-panel edge since access is very limited, and left that clamped down to cure whilst I did exactly the same job again on the other side.

And that is all the welding done on the rear half of the car, which I’m still struggling to believe!

From here I spent a good few hours going back and cleaning up a lot more welds I’d left behind, some general fettling, and then etch-primed every exposed bit of metal I could see, just to put a bit of a line under this exhausting phase of the project.

One particularly tricky bit I’d been putting off for ages was getting the seam between the rear wings and valance as correct as possible. On a car of this vintage, from the factory this joint was seam welded top and bottom, and the exposed seam in the middle was only seam-sealed, so I wanted to recreate that. Just about got there with some careful work with the power file, but they will get some final dressing during prep for paint. I probably shouldn’t worry about this when this is going to be such a modified car anyway (I guess most people would just fully seam weld this up and flat it back these days), but I still want to get things like this right where I can to help with the factory-original sleeper look I’m going for… yeah, we’ll see how that all works out.

Anyway, back half of car: done. Next time, the roof comes off!

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