A labour of love

Paintwork part 3 – doors, bonnet and tailgate prep and paint

Paintwork part 3 – doors, bonnet and tailgate prep and paint

After a good amount of practice painting all the areas of the car that won’t be very visible when it’s finished, I now have the high stakes task of painting the bits that will be very much visible, starting with all of the bolt-on panels.

I had rebuilt and re-skinned my car’s original doors 25 years ago in my first restoration project, but they never fitted particularly well afterwards, and had started to rust out again, so from the outset I planned to completely replace them with better examples in this project. For the RH door, I had found a good secondhand one about 5 years ago and stored it until now. For the LH one, I had splashed out on a brand new Heritage item, but when I did a test fit of all the panels a few weeks back I found the fit of this one to be appalling. Just could not get the panel gaps to look right in any dimension, and even some of the captive nuts for the hinges and latch mechanism were in the wrong place, making it impossible to fit without some corrective action. Unfortunately I’d had this on the shelf for a couple of years by this point too, so it was well outside the return window – it will be for sale at some point as a bargain for somebody with the patience to correct it.

Anyway, eBay soon turned up another excellent secondhand LH door, which fitted perfectly first time, so onward with getting it ready for paint. It was in very sound condition, just the tiniest traces of surface rust. It was all cleaned back to bare metal and treated, and then painted in my favourite U-pol Raptor epoxy primer. The RH door had already received exactly the same treatment.

My original tailgate had rusted through badly on the lower internal lip where the skin folds over, and this was bubbling through on the outer skin. It may have been just about repairable, but I found a new-old-stock tailgate on eBay at another bargain price, and decided to take that as the easy option. It was rust-free and unused, but had been stored for a very long time and picked up a few dings along the way, so I sanded it all back and used a small amount of filler to get the surface perfect.

Useful tip, since replacement tailgates can be fitted to any model year of car, they are not pre-drilled for any particular type of badge design. To make sure I drilled the holes in the correct place for my car’s badge, I just cut the same section out of my old tailgate and used it as a template – saved a lot of difficult measuring!

Also note, if you are replacing your tailgate, make sure to save this little cover piece that is bolted over the catch mechanism on the inside, since it’s not included with the new panel. I had salvaged this and stripped it back through several previous resprays worth of colour at this point.

One of the reasons for prepping and painting the panels first is that I still do not really have a lot of space in my garage, so don’t have the luxury of laying them out alongside the shell to paint everything at once. I had actually planned to have removed the shell from the rollover jig by this point, but as it’s turned out, it’s proved very useful to still be able to cover the shell up, roll it onto its side, and move it out of the way to make more space for panel painting! At this stage, the doors and tailgate are just receiving a last coat of epoxy primer.

By now you will not be surprised at all to hear that my original bonnet was rotten and will not be rejoining the car, or that it is being replaced by a good quality secondhand one from eBay (there is a trend emerging here…). This is another panel that I had found years ago and kept in storage, so it’s really nice to finally be prepping it. It had been previously refinished to a really good standard in the delightful shade of ‘Blaze’ orange, but the previous painter had stopped short of removing the remnants of the old sound deadening panels and just sprayed right over it.

So a fun couple of hours ensued, scraping all of that mess off and sanding back. I sprayed that newly uncovered area of bare metal in epoxy primer, but the rest of the paint was so intact that I decided to only key it off and put an isolator coat onto it, rather than strip the whole panel back to bare metal and potentially make a lot more prep work for myself.

With all my panels prepped, the next stage was a few coats of grey high-build primer, followed by flatting back down to 500 grit.

Colour coats followed, starting with 3 coats on all the inside faces, as pictured at the top of this post. Without the facility for hanging the panels so that both sides could be painted at the same time, I just left them overnight to dry.

Next day I flipped them over, checked for any hard edges on the paint, feathering back where needed, and then applied 5 good coats of colour to the outside faces. Very pleased so far with the “gun finish” – it has a healthy amount of orange peel (appropriate for this colour perhaps), but it will be going through several stages of sanding and polishing after this, so I’m confident that it’s going to turn out very nicely. Even at this stage, it’s a world away from my historical attempts at painting this car, and it can only get better.

Subsequent to taking these pictures I have already dry and then wet flatted these panels, and then completed the first of 3 stages of machine polishing them with a fine cutting compound, before carefully wrapping them all up and storing them well out of the way, before I get on with prepping the main bodyshell for paint. I’ll go into more detail on that finishing process in a later post once the shell is finished.

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