A labour of love

Front wing fitting

With the underside and interior now all painted and looking pretty, it’s time to shift my attention to the exterior, and the next big job is to fit the front wings. You may have seen in previous posts, I did have a fairly serviceable pair of wings that have been test fitted at various times, but they both needed some repairs to the lower edges, and one had become quite rotten around the headlamp area. I really should have repaired them much earlier whilst I was still in the trenches of endless welding, but now that I’ve shifted into the painting phase, I’ve lost the appetite for stripping and fixing them properly, and I’m also pretty keen to get the whole car painted well before winter properly takes hold.

Which is a rather long winded way of saying that I’ve decided to invest in British Motor Heritage Limited once again, and shelled out for a new pair of wings instead. They’re not cheap, but I did manage to get them in a recent Moss sale, which softened the blow slightly, and they are definitely worth it to me in the hours saved stripping the old ones and the quality of the final finish (hopefully).

Anyway, after first doing a trial fit on the shell, it was straight into the “paint booth” with them. I rubbed down the E-coat and gave them a further coat of the Raptor epoxy primer.

They both then got a couple of coats of stone chip protector on the inside.

Followed by 3 coats of Bracken top coat, just to make sure the whole of the underside is resplendent in body colour. You can just see at the top of this picture that I’d also given a new pair of splash panels the same treatment.

I didn’t take too many useful pictures of the actual fitting process, but it’s fair to say it’s an absolute nightmare of a job. The front wings need to be aligned to the doors in order to get all of the panel gaps to be correct, so obviously the doors need to be fitted first. So after partially assembling the doors with hinges, catches and striker plates, I was able to get to an approximation of their final fitted positions, and then start aligning the wings to them. That doesn’t sound too bad when written like that, but this whole process took around 3 days of work. It’s really not a job that I wanted to rush though, since the ill-fitting doors and terrible panel gaps had always been one of my biggest issues with this car before I undertook this project, so they had to be right this time.

With the wings in place I then moved on to fitting the new splash panels underneath, using brand new seals and fitting kits. These would be much easier to fit prior to putting the wings on, but unfortunately they cover up the large nuts on the back of the door hinges where they bolt into the A-posts, which are best fully tightened only after the wing has been correctly fitted and aligned to the door. So a little bit of luck is therefore needed to wedge them into place and bolt them in without damaging any of the fresh paintwork. I almost succeeded.

On the inside, there are 4 bolts holding the wing tight in a vertical line behind the A-post, as well as the two bolts at the top with the long flat washers pulling it close against the scuttle panel. These are pleasantly easy to get to when you’re working with a fully stripped shell like this. I’ve done this job before when the dashboard was still fitted, and it was… less easy, shall we say.

There is also this tricky bolt on each side which sits between the wing and the top of the A-post. The top of the large angled washer you can see below tucks underneath the lower lip of the wing, and pulls the joint tight as the bolt is wound into the shell.

The finished result of many hours of work. I regret to say the door gaps are still not as perfect as I would have liked them, though probably still better than they might have been from the factory in 1975. There is quite a lot of adjustment available in the door hinges and striker plates, which helps to work around some of the slightly loose tolerances inherent in traditionally manufactured body panels like these, but I think I’m also having to compensate for some additional discrepancies introduced during the process of changing the sills and rear wings, despite all my best efforts to get their fit perfect, which is kind of annoying. Looks good from this angle though, and the swage lines are bang on.

The final part of this process was trial fitting the bonnet to verify that it also fits correctly between the new wings, and I was happy to find that it sat perfectly with nice even gaps on both sides, as seen in the headline picture at the top of this post.

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