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From Spit to Polish

This is where we put the car on the spit, which will enable the remainder of the work on the car to be undertaken so much more easily and "professionally" (meaning properly and to a high standard), and hopefully this page will see the car completed.

My much improved spit, made here, which is much more advanced than when used on the MG as a basic pair of A frames from ebay. Now with lower centre of gravity with the offset bar / pivot, the car is virtually balanced at any angle, and a built in screw ram adjusts with light one finger pressure, the angle of the car in very quick time. The ram fits on either side of the bar so that it can be turned either way, to any angle up to about 120 degrees before the cant rail hits the scissors lift underneath. It can be left at any angle without extra locking.

Mr. North wonders whether the welds are up to the job. Well it hasn't fallen off yet anyway.

One of the jobs only properly possible upside down is spotwelding the inner and outer arch rings together, so that the weld runs into the joint rather than out of it. This is what is going on here. Underseal already chiselled off. Note the "L" on the underside of the transmission tunnel. L for Lotus, on the Lotus specific shell parts, applied in a yellowy gold paint before the electo static dipping, so this paint is on the bare metal, while the electrostatic primer is all round it, but not over it! Interesting.

Joined inner and outer flanges, before trimming.

Pulling the two together before plug welding.

Trimming off the excess inner arch.

Making final alignments before joining the tack welds together and joining the arch rings.

Finishing the arches with lead.

Lead Loading, or use of Body Solder.

After seam welding the outer arch back to the outer wing, the welds are ground back more or less flush. This is not the end product however, as we don't want the finished product to be marred by the use of thick layers of polyester filler to get back to the correct profile. We will load the joints with lead, to obtain the perfect smooth metal profile it should have.

The very clean surface is first painted with solder paint, which is heated and the formed molten solder, wiped to tin the surface.

Blobs of solder are then melted along the area.

This is then progressively re-melted to a buttery consistency, before it runs off, and spread and shaped with a hardwood paddle into the desired shape, or as near as possible to the desired shape.

This is then trimmed back with a body file to the correct profile.

Blending the lead into the whole panel. Some distortion had occurred in previous repairs, resulting in copious thicknesses of filler. The panel was realigned and levelled out with lead to the correct profile. Slight surface rust appears on the bare steel after the leading exercise.

Aligning and spotwelding the rear valance and inner and outer rear quarters together.

Cleaned up, ready for leading.

Profiling the arch flare in lead to correct the profile. That's my favourite teddy mug.

Profiling nearly done.

Spot welded inner / outer arch flange. 

Applying some lead to the arch flange.

Rear wing to rear panel joint. Some tack welds to hold it first.

Then we fill it with lead.

Then trim it up thus.

Near side arch.

Tacked joint now seam welded all along and ground back ready for lead loading.

Leading progresses.

Almost done. Prepping of the rest of this side also underway.

Driver's side Floor pan.

Under the underseal, all looked reasonable at first on the underside.

On the inside however, a leaking sun roof had over the years, resulted in deep pitting all over the inside. Many of these were now going into holes, and so it was decided that the only way to remedy this was to make a new pan.

So under Morgan's direction, I marked out the positions of the necessary flutes, and fed a suitably sized sheet of steel through the bead roller as a start. Here is Morgan turning the handle as I feed it through the rollers.

There. A nice series of parallel flutes for the new floor. Thanks Morgan.

Next we had to make the depressions into which the holes in the floor are cut. Also on the bead roller.

With holes cut and flanges applied, here are the two new sections ready to be fitted.

Cutting the hole in the floor to a perfect butt fit for the replacement. 

Gradually Tacking the two sections into position. The tacks are gradually made closer and closer until the last half inch or so sections are seamed up. This avoids distortion.

Yours truly. It is so easy to weld the floor with the car sideways. Standing inside, feet on the floor through the door opening.

Like this.

Finishing the main shell.

This was the last piece of major fabrication needed on the main shell. Some mopping up of small repairs and other bits rewelded into position then takes place.

This is the section of floor which was cut out to expose the inside of the box section chassis under the back seat, on the near side. The inside has been cleaned out and sprayed with cold galvanising, and the floor section is about to be rewelded back into position.


Traditionally, for rebuilds, restorers use spray underbody schutz, or God forbid, black Waxoyl. Better restorations are painted, but this does not give good chip resistance. I am coating my vehicles with "Plastidip HCF", a hard coat rubber, which is chip resistant and moisture resistant, and has excellent gap filling properties, for seams and such like. It can be applied almost entirely, with a roller. I am applying a minimum of four coats. 

"L" for Lotus: painted "L's" on the Lotus specific tunnel sections, found under the underseal. These are to be coated in clear Plastidip, to render them visible on the finished car.

Inside repaired Offside front wing.

Inside rear end of repaired offside wing.

Replacing the sunroof struts.

These sruts had to be refitted before prepping the car for spraying, as the roof needed stiffening for the prepping process.

The offside rear corner main fixing hole had become ragged with rust, and so a new circle of steel was let in for a new hole.

This is the same location after flush grinding, drilling the hole and dressing with lead. The roof strut is now rivetted into place as per the original.

The rear internal strut for the sunroof. Now sprayed in cold galv paint before refixing. The roof was painted with HCF before fitting, as this was surface rusting.

The front sunroof strut.

One last weld repair.

This is the top nearside corner of the windscreen frame. It was found to have gone into holes when probing some surface rust. A new piece of metal is in order here. Note the internal double skinned pillar, also rusty. This will be treated with wax later, after spraying, with the car upside down.

Welding done.

Rear corners fully leaded up.


Finally after a full time nine months of refabrication work, it is time to start the final stage: prepping for spraying. This is a many facetted operation and will take a few weeks, full time, as we shall see.

Actually there was another reason for stripping most of the paint from this side. This was due to microblistering over much of this side. This micro blistering was only found here on this side, probably due to some historical exposure to damp, which may have also been why this side of the car was in far worse condition too.

First, the doors and wings are refitted so as to ensure proper panel alignment when prepping. The door shut lines can be adjusted now. On this side there has been extensive reworking along the lower sides, so it was decided that most of the remaining paint would be removed with a poly wheel, as it wouldn't be much assistance in obtaining level finishing.  


I kid you not. Resprays do come that dear, and can be much more than that too. Have you asked yourself why this is? Just in case you haven't, and aren't already in the know, and maybe think that that is the sort of cash people who work on Rolls Royces or Aston Martins charge, just because of the name, then you are maybe partly right. That part being in that generally, only that sort of value car can justify this sort of cost and only the owner of one would deem to outlay it. The wrong bit is in the assumption that it is the name alone. Any car which has had major refabrication undertaken will require a large amount of prep work done to make it look its best after respraying. This takes lots of time, and the average body shop will not want to know. Their work entails plain spraying of new panels, not reconstructed ones, so theirs involves minimum prepping. They don't even get rid of the dips and bumps either, and you are lumbered with them in the final finish. Scuff up and spray is all you get. This is a different world altogether.

Actually, while the guys may be charging premium rates to undertake refinishing to high standards, heavily reworked panels, it is still the actual amount of input labour in preparation which adds the price up, not just the depth of the pockets of the owner.

As I say, it is all in the preparation, or in other words, the production of a perfect profile, before the colour coats are applied. The steps to be described below are the basis for this level of cost. I am keeping the process of preparation to a practical level of excellence. Basically, if after getting the car to final primer stage, I started again, with another similar number of prepping layers, with longer sanding blocks for level surfaces, and working "blind", using guide coats for level checking, then that puts it into perspective, and that input would bump the costs up to maybe fifteen thousand. This is not a Rolls however, so a line will be drawn and the car will still look better than new. I can only put up with a certain amount of "snow blindness" from staring at the expanse of plain off white car for long periods! I still expect my profiles to be mirror like, and if they aren't, then that's the price you pay for not undertaking further steps!

 Perfect profile is all about losing all those high and low spots; those small indentations and little bumps which are almost inperceptible, but nevertheless, distort reflected light of the glossy finish, so your face, when you look at your reflection, looks like you are in a hall of horror mirrors! That is a lot of work.

In a respray, you get what you pay for. If the bloke down the road offers you a blow over for eight hundred quid, don't accept it. Ask yourself why you want one. If your paint is a bit flat, or scratched, then cut it with G3. If you have rust blistering, go somewhere else. The cheap guy is charging less than the guy who asked you for three thousand, for a reason. This isn't because he is cheaper, it's because he won't do any prepping other than a quick rub over with some sand paper, and all those spots you wanted tidying up will be rusty again in no time.

Ask yourself why you want a respray, if your car has not been pulled and cut about by restoration work and has to have one. If it's for preservation, then prepping is the absolute key which can't be skimped on, and that costs money. Anything less than three grand for anything other than a Mini, then forget it.

I have seen professional restorers spray cars with new panels without even spraying primer over the new panels first, these having only the shop black primer applied. Thus they go rusty in a couple of years. They have no protection. Even if this is phosphate primer. It isn't that good. It needs protection! The colour coats absorb moisture, as paint does, and it goes from there. They also look like the side of an old bus, as they haven't been levelled in filler.

 That's another thing. You hear people extolling the virtues of their cars, "which have no filler in them". Well if you have no filler in your respray, then it won't be as good as it could be. The more attention to filling, the better the result. 

 So here we go, my steps at obtaining my ten thousand pound respray. When you read it, it will all click, and you will never skimp again on a re-spray.

Remember, a respray is for life, not just for Christmas!

Off side.

Let's concentrate on the off side for a bit to start with.

Initial stripping.

First steps at obtaining correct perfect profile. A skim over with stopper. Spray filler may have been used if the surface was completely clean bare steel. Stopper is a very fine filler, usually available only from paint outlets, not Halfords. Ordinary body filler is too course for fine filling. Use two pack epoxy stopper, not the stuff in tubes.

This is gradually worked up to the perfect profile, while adjusting door gaps and shut lines to ensure the door shuts flush with the body all round. This is where we use a 400mm long sanding block with 80 grit paper, on all the straight sections, (most of it). Mine is velcro attached. Use a hand block, not air or electric. These are too viscious. You should be able to sand right across wings and door joints, as these should be flush and level.

Above, we were ready for application of primer. Primer used is two pack high build filler primer, and it is applied un-thinned, with a roller. Yes, an ordinary household mini roller with a sponge head. The best sponges I have found are from Wickes, as these seem to be resistant to cellulosse thinners. Other makes seem to disintegrate within five minutes! Two or three initial coats are applied, and this is sanded back smooth with the long sanding block, this time with 180 grit paper.

It is important to use two pack primer. This is because this epoxy paint gives a stable base, which does not sink or refloat with cellulose thinners which is in the above layers, (including the further sprayed two pack layers). It stays where you leave it. It also gives the best resistance against transferred moisture through the paint layers, giving best protection for the metal underneath. Top coats will be cellulose for best originality and maintainability.

This is after the initial application of primer and rubbing back to expose the first lot of high and low spots. The high spots are pretty obvious as they have gone through to metal or remaining good underlying paint layers. Here, already, stoppering in of low areas has taken place, showing up lighter, and we are ready for another series of coats of primer.

This is how you get snow blind, but you can see the stippling still in the low spots, some stopper, and some metal in a high spot. Obviously the low area has to be filled. This can be done with layers of brush applied paint, or can be done in stopper.

After the next go, with a further three coats, it was looking better, but there is still a way to go.

Note in particular the particularly obstinate and obvious low area between the door handle and the mirror holes. That took quite a bit more to get rid of. So another three coats are in order again, after filling.

Remaining low areas painted in with primer, to build up thickness.

Now we are getting somewhere. Ten coats rollered on; 2 litres of primer on this side alone, a week of almost solid work on this side alone, and I am almost happy.

Sometimes you can't see things until a certain stage is reached. In this instance it was that the arch was not regular enough. Some re-shaping ensued. Lots of local rollering followed this, to regain the primer finish.

Not very visible now, but the area to the rear of the arch had to be made up, in order to regularise the arch, as it was too wide at the back. The body was curving down a bit too sharply. This is now better.

After reworking and making sure everything is perfect, a spray over of two pack primer is made, to cover those areas where, as in the above picture, where it has still rubbed through when shaping up. We are now ready for guide coating and wet sanding with 600 grit.

Front wing temporarily fixed forward of normal location to provide easy spraying of both wing and A pillar.

Near Side.

The near side is going to be easier as there is more original paint left in situ. This is useful. The original paint layers, apart from being part of the car's originality, provide useful layers in which to level out the side of the car with the long sanding block. This means less building up with new layers. The door eventually looks like this. This was a replacement door at some stage, but layers of paint compared with the rest of the car suggest that it was replaced at a very early stage. There is only one layer of paint less on this door than the rest of the car. It has actually been resprayed about four times.

Layers here are: metal, beige, grey, green, yellow (primer), green, grey, green, green (two pack), and there was another grey, green on top of this. That makes five finish coats.

After working up the first two coats of two pack primer. Lots of areas to fettle up. Another three coats to follow with the roller, and we'll try again.

After the next go at it, the arch had to be regularised like the other side, as it was too wide at the back. Now it is better. A thin skim of stopper and it is ready to be re primed.

Getting there, after a further two coats. Just a spray over will suffice now.

Some small imperfections got rid of, ready to spray over with more primer.

Imogen detail brushes in the hinges with two pack primer. Prepping of the pillar in progress.

Cellulose stages. Final preparation.

Finally we are all happy. The whole car is sprayed with several coats of grey cellulose primer. It is then dusted with gloss black. Both of these layers act as guide coats for final levelling out. Wet sanding is underway below, with the 600 grit paper, seen stuck on the rear end. All the black is removed, which tells us that all the scratches and imperfections have gone. If you rub through the grey into the white two pack primer, that is the time to stop and if there are still any pock marks or low areas, then these will be made up with two pack primer and a small brush, then re- wet sanded.

Ready for colour coats.

The white areas are where the grey cellulose primer has been rubbed back into the two pack white primer. This is not an issue and the cellulose has provided the buffer for obtaining that perfect mirror finish.

Building up the colour.

Engine bay first, then door and window frames, then rear panel.

After the main shell has been sprayed. (The roof was not photographed, but was done with the car angled sideways for good access.) The doors are then refitted, after they had been sprayed on their insides first. The doors are then prepped and sprayed separately from the rest of the car.

Finally the front wings are added. Here, the guide coat is being rubbed back.

Wings finally in colour too. Here, the rest of the car is masked off, except the door, which was given a further few coats of paint at the same time as the wing.

Putting the paint on is only the first stage of the final finish. This now has to be rubbed back with 1500 grit wet and dry, with soapy water, to flat out all the patterning, into a mirror finish, before polishing with G3 cutting compound. More later.

Final assembly at last.

A simple statement that, which conjours up a vision of a weekend of bolting stuff back together. It isn't quite that simple, or quick!

Car back on its side, to fit out the underside. First, a new petrol supply line, and brake line. Petrol tank here after trialling in situ.

New petrol line installed. Areas of the tunnel have been intentionally left in original condition as part of the car's provenance.

Assembly of brake components, using wax and copper grease as appropriate, both to preserve any bare metal edges in and around the holes, and to preserve the threads, and hence ease of maintenance.

Ditto, petrol pump mounts.

Off the spit at last.

Keeping the car on the spit while the main body was sprayed had some advantages, especially with regard to access and effective prepping of the lower edges. Now the underside had been fitted out with brake and fuel lines etc. it was time to remove the spit. This left the front and rear valances left to spray into colour.

Gradually being built up into colour, the rear valance.

Then, time to fit everything back together. Back axle already on, with new brakes, as is tailgate.

Then, I wasn't happy with the engine bay, so did it again.

I wasn't happy with a section just on top of the driver's door, so soft masked it off in a strip and blew it in again. Here, the mask is being removed.

Fitting up the underside continues. 

View inside off side rear arch before fitting the petrol tank. Some chassis paint covers what I perceived to be some thin areas of painted plastic underseal, and brown shadows under rear valance show where Dinitrol has been injected into rear seams.

Gasketting up the fuel filler pipe. Historic overspray in the pipe, not mine. Dinitrol used on gasket as a wax protection layer.

View inside door from top before insertion of glass. Outer skin to bottom of picture.

All side glass in place.

Installing the engine..... from underneath. Engine positioned manually underneath as best as possible. It now needs lifting onto blocks so as to be able to move it backwards over the lift.

Gearbox already positioned on lift. Car is now lowered around engine until the two are at the same level.

Like this. They can then be brought together and bolted up, before the whole assembly is lifted again, into position.

Now with the short chain, and engine and gearbox bolted together, the lot is lifted up into position and the engine mounts fitted, together with the crossmember.

The reversing light switch was renewed, and the terminations on the wiring had dropped off, so needed renewing, along with a length of the wires, seen here being crimped with professional quality tools.

Strut top mounts and the holes, plastered in Dinitrol to guard against corrosion.

Only an inch or so of compression is needed on the springs, to get the strut into position with the track control arm in its lowest position. Tell tale signs of Dinitrol injection in the joint between turret and inner wing top.

New straps were made for the washer bottle, out of 2mm aluminium.

Bonnet and sunroof repairs.

The bonnet required a new front edge to the outer and inner skins, and I have decided that this should form the subject of a page on its own, so please refer to the index above for the next page.

Similarly, the Britax original sunroof was in poor condition. I am rebuilding this with new frame components and am replacing the cover. Again, this warrants a page on its own.

Brake calipers.

The calipers had seized, so it was hoped that the bores were okay. They were, while the pistons had their chrome plating splitting off. 

The pistons were replaced with new stainless steel ones.

Cleaning up the calipers.

New stainless steel pistons.

Finishing the front end.

An assortment of front lights!

I thought the car warranted a new pair of Cibies, so on they went.

New water pump.

Stainless fixings for water pump and thermostat housing. Stainless and aluminium don't mix well, so it is advisable to use a lubricant sealant like this, to isolate the metals from moisture, which destroys aluminium in the presence of stainless steel.

I had two broken Series one choke cables. No replacements seem to be available, and the S2 one is totally different. This is a Land Rover one. The cable is virtually identical, and is the ideal length at 48 inches. The only difference is the knob. I will be looking into a knob change on these cables at some time in the future. Here, the cable is being sized up to be drilled to take the warning light switch.

And here it is, fitted.

Running at Last.

First test outing, out the back of the workshop. 6th March 2012 . Fourteen months almost exactly after it went inside.

Re-covered parcel shelf. Ashtray on shelf awaiting fitting to tunnel. Still minus the tailgate lock!

These are the original number plates from the supplying garage in 1981 when the car was on sale to the public.

This page is up to date and the project is now complete.