A labour of love

Front inner wing repairs

Front inner wing repairs

Right then, barring any more forgotten surprises when I look underneath properly, this is the last seriously bad part of the bodyshell I need to fix.

I did a lot of work in this area 25 years ago when I first restored this car, but like a lot of that work it wasn’t particularly good, so I decided I had to redo quite a lot of it. There was a good mixture of dodgy patches (some mine, some pre-existing), bad welding, and even a few bits of historic rust I hadn’t fixed last time, so all kinds of fun to be had!

The right-hand (driver’s) side was particularly bad, so I started with that. I had previously reconstructed most of the pedal box end panel, and it was still pretty solid, but needed some tidying up. The main inner wing panel was a mess of patches and had rusted out badly along the top flange where the outer wing bolts on. These sections are both available as complete Heritage panels. but I considered they would be very difficult to remove, and probably much harder again to replace and fit properly, so I was determined to repair the existing ones. I’m also very keen to finish this project as soon as possible now, and need to try to avoid making any more work for myself than is absolutely necessary!

First job was the tedious task of scraping off underseal before I could survey the full extent of the work.

The left hand side was in much better shape, the pedal box and inner wing were pretty much original and still intact, with only some rework of previous repairs behind the strengthener trumpet requiring attention.

Back on the driver’s side I marked up all the rusty or badly patched areas in preparation for cutting them out. Note, the outline drawn at the bottom of the picture below is marking where I’ll later be cutting a big hole for one of the V8 exhaust manifolds to exit!

And here’s that same area with all the grotty bits removed. The stripped area to the bottom left below is where I’ve already removed the old radiator mounting bracket from the wing, which also needs to be tidied up (the V8 radiator is mounted a few inches further forward, so I’ll be fitting the correct brackets for that in a follow-up).

I had replaced the strengthener ‘trumpets’ in the previous restoration, and they were still in quite good condition themselves, but a lot of the metal around them hadn’t fared so well, so was cut out and replaced too.

The top strip that the wing bolts onto and which forms the bonnet lip is thankfully available as a Steelcraft repair panel (part MB51), complete with all the captive nuts, which saved me a lot of tricky fabrication work. I also purchased the small “splash panel extensions”, pictured here, as Heritage parts, but otherwise I made up my own repair sections from sheet steel.

I started off by tack welding the top rail repair section into place to provide a good point of reference for the other repairs I would need to make. For a pattern part, it’s a really nice fit, it even has the correct slight curvature.

In the original panel this end was joined to the bulkhead using a spot welded lap joint, so I tried to recreate it by joggling the leading few centimetres in the vice using a hammer and dolly to achieve a neat overlap.

At this point I clamped the front wing into place whilst I checked the fit, and then kept it there whilst I measured up some templates to create the other repair sections from.

Unfortunately the top rail repair does not extend down very far below into the inner wing, meaning I had to make up a few quite fiddly filler pieces to completely fill the gaps where I’d cut out the rust.

And that in turn meant that I made a lot of welding for myself! I butt welded all of these pieces, going as slowly as I could to minimise any distortion, since I wanted to completely grind all of this flush to get it back to something like a factory appearance. It was pretty tough going, the old metal, whilst rust free, was quite thin in places, so I did blow quite a few holes and had to put a lot more weld in than I’d have liked.

Some quality time spent with various grinding implements later, and it was all starting to look a bit more presentable, but it will need a lot more finessing still when I start getting the engine bay ready for paint.

I finished up here for now by plug welding on that splash panel extension piece and cleaning up the external side a bit more. There are still some fairly major repairs to be made to the chassis rail in front of the suspension crossmember, but I’m going to save that for a bit later. My next major job is going to be removing the rest of the suspension and getting the whole shell mounted onto a rollover jig, which will give me much better access to areas like that for welding.

2 thoughts on “Front inner wing repairs

  1. This blog is great!!!! I have just discovered it whilst googling how the hell I can repair the rear wings on my 71 GT…. the window corners where the gutter meets the wings being the prime suspects!!! Not to mention rotten boot floor and corners. Your extremely detailed pics will help me no end especially in seeing how all the panels should fit together!!! Thanks and keep up the great work. Oh and Chrome Bumpers… rubber bumpers… whatever floats your boat… all good in my eyes!

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