Category Archives: Paint

September/October 2004 – Clearcoat, boot lid, steering column, sundries

This entry begins the third year of restoration work on the old car.

Clearcoat and boot lid installation

The car body was completely sanded smooth with 800 grit sandpaper, and ripples and “orange peel” areas were smoothed out. The surface was then degreased and coated with another double coat of clearcoat. This final clear coat will undergo the “color sanding” process and then finally be buffed to a fine shine.

We painted and clear coated the door exteriors and the trunk (boot) lid, too. The boot hinges were painted some weeks ago, and they had been awaiting reassembly. I had a number of boot hinge springs that had broken, and I replaced those with new ones using a modification of the methods that have been described by George Cohn (on the Jag Lovers forum) and Classic Jaguar. They are good descriptions and entirely predictable, in that there aren’t very many ways to do the job. One thing I did do that wasn’t listed in the directions was grease between the individual springs. Although the springs don’t do an incredible amount of rubbing, I did notice evidence of wear on my old springs (which were not greased). I figured that adding a smattering of grease probably would alleviate a little friction over time, though at the expense of introducing grease into a storage area. I suspect that the original springs were not greased simply because Jaguar drivers didn’t really want luggage and storables stained with grease. And that would be a hazard of greasing boot lid hinge springs.

The E-type is not a remarkably wondrous vehicle for transporting much other than two passengers, so I wasn’t going to worry about an occasional grease stain.

Once you install the hinges and attach the lid, you almost have to install the latching mechanism. E-types have a release fitted on the rear bulkhead in the car’s interior. There was no lock on the early Series I cars — that was introduced, I believe, with the late 3.8 liter cars or with the introduction of the 4.2 liter engine. On my car, you just pull the knob and the lid pops up. As far as I can tell, there isn’t an easy way to release the trunk lid if the cable attached to the knob and the latching mechanism fails. You’re basically stuck, or you have to be very adept with needlenose pliers stuck through the holes for mounting the rear license plate.

My latch required little more than a good cleanup and a little black paint. The part of the latch that attaches to the lid itself was in exceptional shape, with the cadmium plate in fine polish. After all, it was protected from the elements and had been painted body color at some time.

Once the latch was fitted, the trunk could close and reveal some of the fine shape of the E-type. I couldn’t help myself — I had to attach the chrome surrounds for the license plate recess, just to get a little better picture of the rear. The doors, you might note, also are temporarily hung in place. I needed to get them out of the way, and the body shell seemed a good place to store them!

Steering wheel

Most car restoration, it seems to me, involves some form of rubbing. You can’t get away from it, even after having put in your time rubbing and sanding the body before and after painting. Even the steering wheel took its toll on my elbows, or at least required a bit of attention from my cloth polishing wheel and some compound.

The horn button comes off of the steering wheel by loosening three set screws. Once these are loosened, the horn button comes right off. Dissasembling the steering wheel from the “boss” (the aluminum cylinder that attaches the wheel to the column) means drilling out aluminum rivets. I do not plan on re-riveting the wheel to the boss, so I’m replacing them with screws and bolts. (This is a very common practice, I have learned.)

All of the aluminum on this car has some severe aluminum oxide corrosion, and the steering wheel seemed especially to suffer from it. I used 800-grit sandpaper to remove the bulk of the corrosion, and then I used a cloth buffing wheel with coarse grit to get the remainder cleaned. A single attack on the aluminum portions of the wheel was not enough. I had to go at the whole thing again with 800-grit sandpaper and buffing before things were in shape. Thet pictures of the horn button, by the way, show the wheel in mid-restoration, not final. I’ll update with other pictures, probably when things move along with the steering column and dash assemblies.

The steering wheel itself had some fairly severe cracks, and for the most part the varnish had deteriorated to the point that it had completely flaked off. I was thankful for the residues that remained, but it wasn’t entirely clear at the outset whether the wood sections of the steering wheel would be salvagable. At least the wood was very nearly complete — though a splinter of wood about four or five inches long and about an eighth-inch wide was missing between about 10 and 12 o’clock on the wheel perimeter. In this section, the aluminum steering wheel substrate was exposed. That section I chose to fill with “mahogany” wood filler, and the jury’s still out on what it will look like completely refinished. (I’ll post a picture when I get the polyurethane applied completely.)

For the crack repair, I used an approach that was suggested on the Jag Lover’s Forum: using cyanoacrylate filler to bond and fill steering wheel cracks. It worked nicely, and I just used the glue that I found at Lowes. Unlike the “Super-Glue” adhesive, this stuff was thicker than the watery stuff I’d used before as a cement. It flowed well enough into cracks, but it did bead up after I reapplied it to an already filled crack. The watery “Super-Glue” would just have spread. Because the adhesive bonds very quickly, I clamped the crack as tightly as I could before applying the glue. Even when the crack virtually disappeared under pressure of the clamps, the glue found and soaked into the crack quite easily. Because cyanoacrylates use hydroxyl ions (in water) to begin bonding, I used my breath to add moisture to the wheel before clamping a crack and applying the glue.

Sounds a little weird, but it works. (Arlene and my daughter thought it was strange for me to blow into the steering wheel.)

Cyanoacrylate is exceptionally tough stuff. It quickly soaked into the cracked wood and bonded. The areas that built up some glue were devilishly hard to sand down. After the sanding, I applied a coat of clear polyurethane, followed by light sanding and a reapplication of polyurethane. As of this writing, I’ve applied three coats of polyurethane in this fashion, and I believe that one more will be required. I’ve inserted a picture of the entire steering wheel, with the horn button laid in place. (Since it’s a large picture, I lowered the color palette, and that makes things look a little botchy.) The aluminum still needs a little work (already started, to judge from the scratches that are visible), and the wood needs sanding and another coat. By the way, the void that I had to fill is on the reverse side of the wheel, thank goodness.

Steering column and indicator switch

The steering column lacked a couple of items, and the indicator light switch was faulty. Beyond that, the indicator switch lever was badly corroded; what was originally chrome had become little more than a rusty stick with flakes of chrome loosely hanging on it. The larger picture shows the indicator switch — such as it was — on the steering column. It’s attached with a bracket setup that wraps around the outer tube of the column. The old switch clicked into place for left turns, but the right turns would not hold, making it necessary to hold the switch in place. The trouble was the nylon fitting that was cracked on the side that affected the right. We completely disassembled the switch and discovered some pretty badly burnt points and worn plastic (Bakelite?) housings. In short, the indicator switch is pretty much junk. It’ll be entirely replaced.

The steering column consists of two major parts: an outer tube and the shaft. The shaft is held in place by two bushes, one at the top of the tube and the other at the bottom. The bushes are available in felt or plastic. I went with the plastic versions, in spite of the fact that the originals were felt. The felt bushes are sandwiched by washers and held in place by a wire circlip that snaps into holes on the top and bottom sides of the outer tube. The plastic arrangement is much simpler, since the plastic ring simply snaps into place in the holes. (The holes for the upper bush are visible in the picture on the left.) The two bushes have unequal inner dimensions. The lower bush is smaller than the upper one, since the shaft tapers in stepwise fashion from top to bottom.

When we picked up the car, the steering column shaft was noticably shaky in the tube. This was because a previous owner didn’t bother to replace the felt bushes but instead rigged up a plastic arrangement. This “bush” was mounted centrally on the column (a great pivot, of course), fashioned from a plastic bottle cap, and affixed with electrical tape. In order to reduce drag, I suppose, the entire shaft was smeared with grease. It is actually amazing that the shaft didn’t bind firmly in the tube, because the electrical tape easily unravelled.

I took pictures of the plastic replacement bushes, but (alas) they are stuck on my digital camera. The dongle has disappeared from the household, and of course no one has any idea where it is. When it reappears (soon, I hope), I’ll post a photo of the bushes.

‘Til then….

August/September 2004 – Painting, finally!

Painting color, finally!

It seems like it’s taken ages too long to get to this point, but the body is finally sporting Opalescent Dark Green instead of blotchy primer grey! It’s been nearly two years since the boys and I fetched the car from Virginia, and it is only now on the way to coming back together into car-like shape.

I don’t think it’s worth going over the tedium of sanding the bonnet (endlessly!), except to say that the process forced me to head to the paint shop for another quart of high-build primer. That last quart barely made it, too. To count the quarts of primer I’ve sprayed, you’d think that the car body would be little more than a large clump of primer, but that’s not the case. Most of the primer ended up suspended in water in a bucket after being wet-sanded off the body. I do think that my inexperience made the block sanding a little more difficult and protracted than would be the case in a real body shop.

If there is a science to block sanding, it has to be a matter of using the longest sanding board that you can manage on the space. I think the depressions that I ground into the primer — only to refill them with yet another spray — came about because I used either a short block or I used a too flexible styrofoam block at the wrong time. The persistent waves on the bonnet’s wings were conquered after I only used my long firm sanding board. (The picture above appears to show some wavy light lines to the right of the performance bulge. Those light lines are bowed because of the pressure of the bonnet sitting on the sawhorse underneath. When it’s not mounted on sawhorses the bonnet itself is straight, thank goodness!)

All surfaces of the car have been sprayed with color now, with the exception of the exterior sides of the doors and the trunk/boot lid and the gas filler cover. These final parts will probably be sporting Opalescent Dark Green after the Labor Day holiday in September.

Body shell color

The body shell took color well into August, and really the body shell didn’t take much time in August to prepare since most of the work had already been done. In July, I sprayed the final coat of high-build primer, and then I pretty much let it sit. The only preparation was sanding the wings lightly with a flexible styrofoam sanding board and them paying much more attention to the sills. I used the long sanding board on the sills, and this final prime/block-sanding took out the last of the ripples.

So, when it really came down to doing the job, the first part was masking. Since I had already sprayed color on the interior, inside the boot/trunk, inside the gas tank filler hole, and on the front bulkhead/firewall and subframes, those were all masked off. The borders of the already painted areas were scuffed with steel wool, and the masking tape exposed a small section of the already painted area. The narrow painted areas would get another coat of seal, basecoat, and clear. I figured it was worth coating these areas twice, just to make sure that color was uniform, and no lines of primer appear in the final product. These sections were all in “channels” so they are unobtrusive or obscured by rubber seals.

The process of masking took far longer than I anticipated. The easiest was the firewall/front bulkhead section since it was pretty much a straight shot. The trunk/boot area and the interior were more difficult because tape needed to be pressed from behind the plastic sheeting. I usually outlined the area with wide masking tape and then pressed plastic sheets onto the outline. The masking picture to the left shows the finished product. I used plastic grocery bags on the “A” posts, and Costco paper towel packaging served as the plastic covering for the trunk/boot area. The interior was draped in garbage bags that were cut along the heat-sealed edges to make large thin plastic sheets. I found that the thicker “drop cloth” plastic that you get at the lumber yard was simply too thick and not pliable enough to work with easily. (I ran out of 2-mil plastic sheet, and that worked very well, I should say.) The gas tank filler hole was just taped, no plastic needed.

On the masking tape: I don’t recall the wide selection of masking tapes a few years ago. Perhaps there were indeed time-rated masking tapes of various colors at paint shops, but I never ran into them. For this masking, I unsuccessfully tried a purple masking tape whose adhesive was supposed to be good for up to a month without drying out. The adhesives, apparently, can cause damage if you leave them on too long. I will admit that I have run into very old dried masking tape that’s been a bear to get off without damaging the underlying paint.

Well, kinder and gentler masking tape is a very fine idea, but the stuff has to stick in the first place. My experience with the purple masking tape was that it stuck at first, and then let loose with the slightest of pressure (like the blow of air from a paint gun) or it simply pooped out and let loose. My suggestion on the time-rated tape is to use the regular sticky beige masking tape, which I was told was good for “no more than four hours.” Unlike the purple stuff, the regular masking tape sticks. Although it’s worth taking it off as soon as you can, I’ve not had trouble with it damaging underlying paint even after several days. Leave it on for weeks, and you might have trouble. I noticed that Bill McKenna used the purple stuff when he was masking his E-type coupe for painting. I don’t know what he thinks about it, though.

The paint process, as before, entailed careful cleanup, spraying sealer, spraying basecost, and finally spraying clear.

I was a bit concerned about any wrinkling in areas where the paint might resist sticking, as I had run into before. Clearly, this is a surface preparation problem, and I think I ran into it because I did use a silicone-based sealer on some weld points. That should not be an issue on the body exterior anywhere, but I was careful to clean the primed surface with clean water, which I then dried with lint-free towels. This left the surface without any dusty primer residues from sanding. Next I used a “liquid deglosser/degreaser” that I have seen remove oils and grease quite effectively. I picked it up at Lowe’s so it is not anything special — just a typical brand. The degreaser is quite volatile, so it evaporates quickly. Then, after about an hour or so wait, on goes the sealer. The process is the same as before.

We departed from the previous paint sessions by blocking the completely dried clearcoat with 800-grit wet sandpaper. This wasn’t done immediately; I waited ten days to take it on. Because the surface was well shaped, there were no areas where I sanded through to the basecoat. I used a fairly small block of medium stiffness styrofoam (actually it was 3/4 inch foam insulation). For areas where I detected runs in the clear, I used either a section from a wood paint stirring stick wrapped in 800-grit or a small hard rubber sanding block to focus on the high areas. When I talked with the people at my paint shop, they were concerned that the clear was thick enough. If you do sand through to the basecoat, I was told, “you end up with a mess.” They advised that at least two coats of clear be on the surface before sanding. I didn’t count the coats on the car body, but I know that we resprayed the clear after the original coat had set a while. So, I wasn’t worried.

This post-clearcoat sanding was not a tenth as onerous as blocking primer, and a third as messy. The clear is much, much tougher than high-build primer, naturally, and so the mess is small. You end up with a thin lather of suspended clear over the surface, and the unfortunate orange peel or run ripples are easy enough to remove.

Bonnet color

As I’ve said before, the E-type bonnet makes up much more than even its formidable size in the imaginations of car enthusiasts. The bonnet itself comes close to expressing the most special qualities of the E-type. So, when it came to applying color, painting the bonnet meant really painting the car. And we wanted it to be perfect. But we did run into disconcerting troubles before we finished the job.

The bonnet came in from the outside where the interior was sprayed with color after all the rock guard and primer had gone on. I believe that we can finally dismantle the old rolling rack that held the car shell for over a year. (We made the rack from wood salvaged from a humble old chicken coop. So, I guess one could say that instead of finding this car in a chicken coop, this one was on top of one for more than a year.) We put the bonnet on saw horses that fit to each side of the performance bulge and nearly touching the inner duct wings. This was a mistake. Or, at least the way we set the bonnet on the horses was a mistake. We didn’t pad the points where the bonnet and the sawhorses met, and we discovered that the weight of the bonnet pushed the metal out at the forward-most points of contact. On the left side, this was a gentle bulge that disappeared when we lifted the bonnet from the sawhorses, but on the right we have a little touch-up to do. I think we’ll be able to press out or gently knock out a persistent bulge on the left side. Aaron noticed the bulges when we were rubbing the bonnet with steel wool (for reasons spelled out later). They were unfortunately not visible at the time we set the bonnet on the sawhorses.

The Moral: If you use sawhorses to suspend your bonnet, make sure that you have the sawhorses well padded, and I think fashioning a broad supporting plate from plywood is advisable. You need to spread the weight resting on the sawhorses.

I mentioned steel wool. Here’s the story — another mistake that a little research solved, but that could have been messier to deal with had we continued with the painting process. After the sealer and the basecoat was applied, we noticed that the basecoat was drying “cloudy,” as if it had been lightly covered with a whitish-grey spray. This was only apparent after the basecoat had dried, and the cloudiness was not uniform across the surface of the bonnet. In general, it followed wide lines of the spraying itself, usually appearing where there was probably an overlap of spray.

I had not run into this on other surfaces, and I initially thought that the cloudiness might be resolved when the clearcoat was applied, since the clear is supposed to melt and resuspend the base. But I wasn’t sure, so I searched the web and found that this is a common phenomenon that is usually caused by thinning the basecoat too much or by applying clearcoat before the basecoat has dried sufficiently. The “cloudiness” is actually suspended flakes that float to the surface of the too-thin paint. The recommendation was to reshoot base on the surface, making sure that the basecoat paint was accurately thinned. Not too much, not too little — just right.

I took a little fine steel wool after a cloudy section, and the clouds disappeared with a little rubbing. The integrity of the basecoat (which dries very soft) was unassailed. Aaron and I rubbed the entire surface of the bonnet with steel wool to dispel the clouds, so to speak. After that, Aaron cleaned the surface with compressed air, and I sprayed another thin coat of basecoat over the bonnet. It dried as expected, and then the clear went on. We let the clear set for about a half hour, and then sprayed a second coat over the almost-dried first coat. It was a bad oversight on my part to have missed taking a picture of the clouded basecoat. If it happens again, and I hope it won’t, I’ll remember to take a picture. You can imagine that things were a little tense around the old DeLong hacienda as the bonnet clouded up!

The bonnet will get the 800-grit sanding treatment in mid-September, about two years after we initially rolled the car into the old cat cage garage.

The photos below show the bonnet in primer, basecoat (after steel wool treatment) and after the clearcoat. You can see one of the door panels to the rear of the bonnet. The interior sections of the doors and the trunk/boot lid were painted with the bonnet.

July 2004 – Priming, sanding, and bonnet again

Moving car shell off rack, bonnet again (17 – 23 July)

The weekend of 17-18 July was mainly devoted to lowering the car shell from the wooden rack, cleaning the garage, and moving the bonnet outside. It was, I suppose, rather uneventful, except for the fact that it meant that the car was closer than ever to supporting itself on four wheels. For that matter it was closer to the ground than it had been for over a year — on 15 March 2003 the car went up on its wooden frame.

We moved the wooden frame out of the garage and then moved the bonnet from its corner to perch on the wooden rack. I can cover it with a tarp to protect it from the elements until it’s ready to move back into the garage. Actually, the bonnet has moved in and out of the garage during the last half of July, since we’ve taken it out to spray primer and have better access to the internals and such. And then we’ve moved it back into the garage in order to fit it to the body shell.

The bonnet had received the occasional final brush full of “Tie-Coat” primer when I was busy doing other things, but once it made it’s way out of the garage it has become more of a focus of our attentions. I finally sprayed it with “Tie-Coat” and this was the first and last of such stuff on a good portion of the bonnet. I wanted to use more mainline primer on the bonnet, since it worked so well on the body shell. The “Tie-Coat” cured for a couple of days, and then I went over it very quickly with a sanding block to remove the drips and such. Then I sprayed a good Dupont two-part high-build primer. This was really the first “working” coat of primer — one that would get some attention from the sanding block.

As with the other blocked primer coats, this one got a “guide” coat of spray paint, this time a black gloss because it was the only spare can of paint I had on hand. I’ve found that the Rustoleum “rusty metal” primer is a good guide coat paint, since it doesn’t build up in sandpaper. I didn’t have any available, though. The bonnet nose finally looks as though it is getting into final shape. (Somehow, I feel that I have said or thought that before with the bonnet.) Once again, I have shaved off and tapped metal a bit on the right side. This has the good effect of removing body filler, but it seems a bit late in the game to be shaping the nose even still. Some final dings I have filled with Evercoat “Easy Sand” filler (good stuff!). If you look closely at the bonnet nose pictures you can see several shades: spots of exposed metal are dark, a pinkish color is body filler used after hammering out the metal, light blue (almost white) is “Easy Sand,” sky blue is “Tie-Coat” primer and the grey is the two-part high-build primer. I put three small pieces of purple masking tape on an area of concern: a gentle dip on the left side of the “performance bulge.” This place will get a little extra high-build when I next spray it. This is a barely perceptible dip that I think can be eliminated without too much of a buildup of primer, especially since the area surrounding it has been brought down with block sanding.

Bonnet hardware

Quite a while ago I had zinc plated parts of the bonnet latch brackets that attach to the body shell and accept the latch “peg” from the bonnet. I had to repair the parts of the side latches that attach to the bonnet and hold the pegs that fit into the holes on the brackets. I believe these are called “bonnet locating pegs” and “bonnet lock brackets.” The single remaining rubber bonnet locating peg pad is exhausted, so I’ll need to get new ones. They look like special parts, and I don’t think I’ll be able to find a “generic” equivalent. These rubber parts fit around the pegs and keep the metal latch brackets from banging metal-to-metal.

The right side latch bracket that fits onto the bonnet was broken at the point where the locating peg was attached. This seems to be further evidence of a rather bad impact to the right front side of the car at some point. My guess is that the peg was either ripped off at that time or the bracket and the peg were severely bent and they eventually weakened and fell off, or were simply torn off to get them out of the way. Blame a previous owner. I could have located a replacement, but I decided to repair the original with a washer and some deft welding and grinding. I also fashioned a new peg that is very close to the peg on the intact left side latch bracket. I am now thinking that I will plate the pegs with zinc and paint the brackets with a metal/aluminum paint. The pegs will need to have a durable, abrasion-resistant coating.

The latches really helped in fitting the bonnet to the car body, since they keep alignment and support the outer rear wings in place while you adjust the bonnet mounts at the bonnet hinges. When I had previously (and grossly) fitted the bonnet (see the earliest attempt in August 2003 and the most recent in March 2004), I had not used the latches, since these were, after all, gross fittings. My main intent was to see how well the rear section of the bonnet met the front bulkhead. But at this point I was more interested in seeing how the outer lines of the bonnet fit the outer lines of the body shell, and so I needed to be more discriminating in the fit.

The more discriminating fit was, well, merely all right. The side panels met better on the left side than the right side, and the gross geometry overall was in good shape. But I could not do the blocking over the channels as I had hoped. The structure itself was too fluid and loose, and so it was apparent that I had to fit the bonnet internals more permanently in order to work with the outer lines of the bonnet.

Bonnet internals glued and primed (25 – 31 July)

So, the bonnet came off and was returned to the rack. This time it went on upside down, though, in order to give easy access to the inside of the bonnet. I had not yet glued the flanges to to inside of the center section of the bonnet. These flanges hold the two ducts in place and overall provide internal support to the bonnet structure. My flanges fit very badly, leaving as much as about a half inch (one centimeter and some) of a gap toward the front of the bonnet. I decided that it was better to fashion new flanges than to try to fill the gap, so to speak, with adhesive. Apparently using an excess of adhesive is common practice, but I think it would look tacky and probably not be as stable as customized — and (I know) non-standard — flanges. So we put the last bits of the 20-gauge steel to use. (Historical note: Aaron and I fashioned the new flanges, but we also used one welded up by John Boutin when he and his family visited us back during Thanksgiving vacation 2003. He wanted to try his hand at welding and that was his project. The flange now sits in the forward right position, holding the right side duct nearest the bonnet mouth.)

Mike Moore, a two-time Jag E-type restorer in California, gave me particulars about getting the Sikaflex adhesive that is “original” for the E-type bonnet. Mike says it is very good stuff. Nonetheless, I decided to go with a polyurethane adhesive, since I had read in a post from Dan Mooney (of Classic Jaguar) that a good polyurethane adhesive would do the trick. Besides, I could obtain that nearby.

We glued the flanges to the metal after cleaning up the lines well. The polyurethane adhesive was certainly messy, but it set in about 24 hours. Pictures I had seen of the glued pieces show that the glue was applied generously and bulges out from the joint. Ours looks pretty standard in that regard. The polyurethane glue we used is tough stuff after it’s dried. Like what I’ve heard about Sikaflex, it is somewhat flexible, but quite resistant to movement. It is not “rubbery.”

North Carolina has periods of summer rains that occur regularly in the afternoon. Since mid July it has been a little wetter than the earlier part of the month (though we have really needed the rain). That is to say: moving forth with the bonnet while it’s perched (and covered) outside has been a little hit-or-miss. I’ve been reluctant to paint when rain threatens, of course. Priming has been a bet with the weather, but by the end of the month the bonnet internals got a coating of “Tie-Coat” primer and the two-part high-build primer. Also, the front wheel wells were coated with rock guard. Inadvertently, the rock guard ended up a two stage process, in part because our Internet connection went out after a power outage and I couldn’t consult the well illustrated “FAQ” on applying “underseal” that is posted on Classic Jaguar‘s web site.

Anyway, I initially left the frontmost section of the front well well without rock guard, since I have pictures of a restored Jaguar without rock guard. I went ahead and smoothed out some ripples on both of these sections, thinking that they were going to be smooth and painted. When RoadRunner came back up, I checked the FAQ on Classic Jaguar. Sure enough, the front portion also gets rock guard, according to Dan Mooney. The more I though about it, the more I recalled removing rock guard from that part of the bonnet, too. (I should say that I have learned not to trust anything I found on this car to be particularly reliable as far as originality is concerned.) I went ahead and applied rock guard to the front section. This was hardly an aggravation. The stuff goes on easily and is an easier cleanup than having to clean up a spray gun. I again used the “Gravi-Tex” product that I used for undercoating for the IRS well, rear wheel wells, and the underside of the car. It’s significantly less expensive than the 3M Rock Schutz.

That pretty much closed the month of July. I was hoping that the car would have color by the end of July, but this is close enough. The rains of the last week or so didn’t cooperate with me. The inside of the bonnet still needs a bit of block sanding (nothing too meticulous, though) and another shot of two-part primer. Then I think we’ll refit it to the car body, and finalize the blocking.

Then … color! Maybe. I’m now hoping that August is the magical month.

Forgotten tidbit: Underside painted Opalescent Dark Green (a while ago — mid-June 2004)

I neglected to mention how I managed to paint the underside of the car. This entailed lifting the car up off the rack and moving the rack back until the rear section of the car was supported beneath the foremost section of the boot floor, just behind the housing for the IRS. The front of the car — basically at the point where the frames attach to the body — was supported by a saw horse. This left the entire mid-section of the floor completely free. And I simply painted it. I wasn’t too cramped, since the car was about four feet (a little over a meter) off the ground. (The operation did not lend itself to photography, I’m afraid.)

Of course, the underside of the car is painted Opalescent Dark Green over the rock guard.

July 2004 – Priming and painting

Blodger license plate “SI-1963”

First, I want to announce that I have indeed found something that you can entirely make out of Bondo and not feel at all bad about it. I manufactured a completely bogus 1963 North Carolina license plate with some old Plexiglass, a handful of modelling clay, some plaster of Paris, Bondo (the cheap kind), and some paints found in the garage. The process was simple: Using the plexiglas as a base, I fashioned the raised letters and numbers with the modelling clay, making the side bevels a bit more gradual than the eventual product. This allowed for some material for shaping. After applying a bit of dishwasher soap and water to the Plexiglas and clay plate, I poured plaster of Paris over the plate. This made a mold. After the mold had set, I applied Bondo to the mold, and embedded a piece of wire screen for strength — an entirely good “blodger” practice. I had to break the plaster apart to remove it from the Bondo, in spite of the soapy lubricant. Final shaping was with sandpaper.

The plate design came from the web. People actually have extensive collections of automobile license plates. Yellow lettering over a black background was official for 1963, and apparently the first two characters were alphabetical, followed by and dash and then four numbers.

Does this make me a felon? Sure hope not! I’ll only use this plate for show, if I ever do that.

Priming and painting

Priming and painting have occupied July so far. I decided to move away from the POR-15 “Tie-Coat” Primer, which basically serves to bond to the POR-15 sealing coat. Although it’s a buildable primer, it’s expensive. I worked a bit with a two-part epoxy primer when I painted the truck that the boys wrecked (good painting practice, I figured). I liked the two-part primer better than the “Tie-Coat,” and I do think that the epoxy paint probably is tougher than the “Tie-Coat.” I have focused this priming/sanding effort on the exterior sections of the car body. The inside of the trunk and the interior I have left with just the “Tie-Coat” primer. I block sanded only sections of the trunk interior that will be visible at times, namely the floor beneath the spare tire.

Although my primary concern with the block sanding was the outer sills, I decided to spray the exterior body shell. There are enough little imperfections all over to warrant some extra spraying, and I figured that using the guide coat might scare up dimples and such that I could take care of. I also sprayed the exterior sides of the doors and trunk lid. These also needed work to get rid of minor ripples.

Having a “long board” for wet sanding certainly has helped to get the sills straight. But I have found that the final stages of the process require that I use a gentler approach to curves, and especially on the curves of the rear quarter panels above the wheel wells. I know that there are long flexible sanding boards, but I don’t have one. Instead, I have used 3/4 inch foam insulation as a sanding block. It is about twelve inches long, so it doesn’t have all the advantages of the long boards, but at this point it seems to be quite good at smoothing out curved surfaces. I’ve just had to be more careful about distributing my sanding work across the surface, so that I don’t grind down into any one area.

I have brushed or sprayed a total of five coats of primer on the exterior sections of the body shell. Most of that has ended up sanded off and suspended in a bucket of water. I have been thinking that the fifth coat would be the last, though the jury is still out on that. Since I want to spray color on the exterior before the end of July, I decided to go ahead and paint the less critical sections of the shell: the inside of the trunk (aka, the “boot”), the gas tank opening, and the interior section of the car.

So, after I applied the latest coat of primer to the exterior and sprayed a “guide” coat, I masked up the entire car. It looked like it waswrapped up for shipment or a rather plain birthday gift.

I decided to spray a sealer before any color. It isn’t absolutely necessary, but I ran into a problem with paint not sticking and bubbling up. That was enough of a pain to go through the precaution of using a sealer. Surface preparation entailed washing the surfaces with clean water to remove dust and dirt. After that I used a degreaser to remove any residues of grease or oils that might have dropped onto the surfaces. Then it was a matter of waiting and watching for everything to dry — and no long wait was required, since North Carolina has been hot lately. I gave it about two hours.

The Dupont sealer I used is three-part: a base, a thinner-activator, and an activator. Pot life for the mixed product is only one hour. I have found that the stuff is tough to clean off of hands and any surface where it’s dried. I was told that the sealer should be allowed to dry, but that painting over it should take place pretty soon after drying. An overnight dry-time is not appropriate, I was told by some experienced painters. If the sealer dries overnight, I was told to “scuff it up” before applying color.

After sealer comes the color and then the clearcoat. One thing I’ve noticed with spraying color over the sealer: you need to be sure not to miss any places. The dark grey of the sealer masquerades as the opalescent basecoat, even when I’ve sprayed in very good light. I’ve decided to spray two or even three coats of base color, methodically covering all areas. Method is probably the key here — start and end your painting of a section following a plan.

Clearcoat is last. It livens the basecoat.

May/June 2004 – Color on front frames, suspension, part 1

Color on front frames

First, a larger picture than I usually post. I beg forgiveness for the size of the shot, but I figured the compressed GIF image sacrificed too much accuracy in color. Fatter JPEG format will do.

The picture shows the color a bit more clearly than the previous shot did, but still the photograph doesn’t quite do opalescent dark green justice. It is indeed more fiery than the flat web browser allows. You can probably see the strategy I am taking in rebuilding and spraying color. I am holding off with exterior sections of the car until the internal sections are more or less complete. This has the upside of allowing me to get a little better with the spray gun before I attempt shooting color on the parts of the car that are most easily seen — and therefore more sensitive to my ineptitude with the sprayer. It has the downside of making any painting a big deal, since everything needs to be masked and cleaned and fussed over. Doing the entire job in one fell swoop would be more efficient, perhaps.

But if I were worried about efficiency, I wouldn’t be restoring this car, now, would I!

The primed front frames were sprayed with sealer and then color was applied. They were sprayed separately and then assembled onto the firewall (front bulkhead). I had replaced most of the bolts and nuts with grade 8 hardware, replated with zinc and then treated with zinc blackener. The effect is quite nice. I decided to give the blackened zinc a try in spite of the hours I had spent doing the nickel plating the front suspension parts. The additional protection was nice, but using correct color bolts convinced me.

As a small aside, I should add that I have been seeking opportunities for practice with the spray gun. Well, sometimes they have found me, too. The boys managed to wreck the 1995 Dodge Ram pickup so that the insurance company totalled it — it doesn’t take much to total an old vehicle, even a truck. I settled for enough to get another old pickup (a Ford F-150) and I decided to keep the Ram. We fixed it with some pulling and sanding and new parts, basically the driver’s side front end. Mechanically the old thing is still in great shape, and the frame wasn’t harmed by the accident. This turned out to be a great opportunity to practice painting. It was, unfortunately, as hard as I remembered. The old truck looks good from 20 feet, but you do see a couple of runs if you stand much closer.

Oh, well, so long as it doesn’t happen on the Jag….

Front suspension rebuild started

I thought about calling this section “Sproing!” because of the trouble I have had with the upper wishbone “circlips” (also known as “snap fasteners” or “internal retainers”). I got new upper and lower ball joints/ball pins for the wishbones, and the upper kits were supposed to have included internal retainers. And one kit did, but the other replaced the internal retainer with an external retainer, which of course wouldn’t work at all. I fetched the old part that I removed that had the internal retainer and I figured I was set.

Never underestimate the power of tools that aren’t quite suited to the purpose.

I managed to let both of the good circlips fly off into the netherworld. In the vain hope that cleaning might scare up one of them at least, I grabbed the broom and swept the garage. No clip appeared. The second one flew off after I had opened the garage door to let light come in so I could search for the first lost circlip. Of course, it flew off into the rose garden and grape arbor with a sleek and fast zing. I told Aaron he could grab his metal detector and search, but he wasn’t motivated.

McMaster-Carr came to the rescue, and I will be expecting a box of 25 circlips sometime early next week, I suppose. That should give me enough circlips for, well, another eleven cars. Anyone need a circlip cheap?

Besides this little annoyance, there are others. I’ll be compiling tips for installation of the front suspension parts to publish later, probably in the next entry. It turns out that order of rebuilding and installation matters a bit, but it’s not complicated.

January-March 2004 – Plating and spraying color

Part 2: Plating and spraying color

One thing up front: the color of the car is not British Racing Green, though it’s close. I decided to go with Opalescent Dark Green, the very color that I liked the best long, long ago. I guess we all go back to our roots. The initial spray appears later in this page.

I got a Zinc and “Copy Cad” plating kit from Caswell Plating and set it up one moderately-not-cold weekend in the garage. I carefully read the book, which was quite instructive though perhaps they could have stood the skills of an editor. I set up the line of containers, donned my gloves, goggles, and protective clothing and successfully plated a couple bonnet latch fittings. No sweat.

They key appears to be the preparation of the piece. The guidelines are simple: get it to straight, clean, clear steel and you’ll be OK. I blasted the pieces to the bare steel, since this was the proper prep for a close to cadmium finish. The original cad was still on protected sections of the pieces, so I had to make sure that I didn’t breathe in any cadmium dust released during the blasting. I also used the 1:20 muriatic acid “pickle” to remove any residues. Electroplating took a bit longer than the manual suggested — actually about twice as long, but I got good solid coverage. After the plating was done, I used a bronze wire brush to make the metal gleam.

The end product looks shockingly like cadmium, I think in large part because the surface preparation with blasting helps with the finish. I think only a very well trained eye could see the difference between “Copy Cad” and the Real McCoy, and perhaps only then if pieces were next to each other.

I can tell that this plating process will take a long time. I am glad that I’ll be sending out the bulk of the plating to a professional. I can handle the small parts and nuts and bolts that I might want to plate.

Well, I announced before that the car was going to be British Racing Green, but I did give myself the option of changing my mind until the paint can was safely in the garage. I did change my mind. And, besides, it turns out that 77RW was Opalescent Dark Green, too. I mentioned that I didn’t like the color of a Opalescent Dark Green car I’d seen on the Classic Jaguar website, but I noticed as well that photography of the color varied enormously. You can’t get a picture of what the color “really” is, since that is part of the charm of an opalescent/metallic paint. The dark green seems to play with light especially well, and it appears nearly black in some light and glimmeringly dark green in other light.

Picking paint was not simply complicated by indecision. The paint codes that are available on the web are lacking in currency. Sure, there are numbers to be found everywhere, but they are for the most part outdated and mostly not even indexed or cross-referenced anymore. I worked with a PPG shop and a Dupont shop in Durham, North Carolina, to get the codes straight. The Dupont shop took old codes I had found and contacted Dupont. They subsequently scared up the original chips and mapped the current numbers.

I went over to the shop to look at the chip of Opalescent Dark Green but was astounded to see that the chip was extremely dark. Dark, as in very close to black — and I put everything on hold again so that I could verify the numbers somehow. The only difference that Dupont noticed in comparing the old and new chips was a difference in size of the matallic flakes. The old chip had very small flakes; the newer chip had slightly larger ones. The color itself was identical, for all practical purposes.

I took all of the numbers I had found for Opalescent Dark Green (about a half dozen of them from various paint manufacturers) and went into the back room of the PPG place and watched the cross-reference database at work. When the new Dupont number was entered, a PPG number that I had found came up. This was corraborating evidence that I had a real Jaguar color. I would have walked out of the place with paint had it not been for the fact that the color required some consultation with PPG. That couldn’t be done immediately, so I left and called up the diligent Dupont shop to order the paint. I was all set with paint in a couple of hours.

The paint has a basecoat of color that goes on thinned 1:1 and dries dull. Clearcoat goes on between one and six hours after that. The clear brings out the metallic and sets the color bright. This process was almost identical to the process for PPG that Bill McKenna described for his application of Opalescent Dark Blue.

I masked and painted the front bulkhead (a scary vertical face!), and the paint and clearcoat was amazingly resistant to dripping. The clearcoat was much thicker than the basecoat, but it held fast. The directions suggest two or three sprays with a few minute “flash” between coats. I waited a little more than five minutes between my clearcoats.

I have to touch up a section on the front right sill bulkhead panel where the basecoat bubbled (bad surface prep I think), but everything looks great. I started with the front bulkhead so that I could get some practice on a “low anxiety” part of the car (as if there is any such area). Spraying is an art. I hope I can master it well enough for the areas that are most visible. One thing I can say is that the years have improved paint technology. I remember spraying my old MG with enamel and having to rub out a huge mess. This paint goes on much more easily, as far as I can tell, even with my very average spraying equipment.

January-March 2004 – Winter cleaning, undercoating, plating prep

Part 1: Winter cleaning, undercoating, plating prep

It’s been a while since I updated the web site, but when cold weather comes in, as it did in abundance this winter, you just want to hunker down and get through it. So I occupied my restoration time with things that were easy to do in short and less cold moments. Little things over a long period do add up. This is a two-part addition to the restoration journal. Welcome to part one….

I mentioned that I had chosen a non-3M undercoating. It is called “Gravi-Tex” and it seems to me to be a good equivalent of the 3M “Rock Guard” that is well known in Jag restoration circles. It goes on with a spray gun (that I got free with purchase of two bottles of the stuff). I got the material in black, although I suspect that other colors are available, simply because the color was listed on the label. It’s manufactured in the UK.

I followed the guidelines on the Classic Jaguar website for undercoating. The illustrated instructions are listed in the “FAQs” and show you what you need to mask up and where the borders of the undercoating are on the rear boot bottom and the lower outer sills. It took a short evening to mask up the body shell. Since I’ve decided to ignore the bonnet for the time being (yes, I got sick of messing with the bonnet), I didn’t worry about the front wheel well areas on it. I figured that I would go back to the bonnet in earnest once I had the bonnet subframe issues resolved.

I went about two and a quarter inches up the outer sill from the bottom of the outer sill and followed the photographs on the Classic Jaguar web site for the border on the boot floor. Use the notches in the bottom that meet the wheel wells to guidance. Your masking will almost bisect the hole for the fuel “bung.” Be sure to mask the radius arm mounting cups and the bolts for mounting the exhaust pipes beneath the floor.

I used fairly low pressure to spray the undercoating — 40 psi — since I wanted to have the coating go on roughly. Higher pressure will make the material finer grained, so to speak, and smoother to the touch. The original undercoating was even rougher than what I eventually ended up with, and I suppose I could have backed off on the pressure even more. The final effect is nice nonetheless.

I left the undercoating for a week or so before spraying a thin coat of primer over the surface. This may have been unnecessary, but auto paint folks suggested it for good sealing and for a uniform color beneath the paint.

In addition to the body work, I prepped the front suspension parts for nickel plating. I decided to go ahead and blast them. They’re pretty clean now, for the most part, and I have just a few more small parts to clean up before shipping the lot of them to a plating service I located in North Carolina. (I’m sending them off with a little trepidation, I’ll admit. The parts are practically irreplacable, after all.)

And, since one can easily spend money in warmth inside, I did a bit of that, too. Shocks, bushes, brake cylinder rebuild kits, ball joint kits, front brake rotors, and so on. Also, I got a used bonnet subframe from Stefan Roundy to replace the bent up one that came on my car. I can hardly wait to get the subframes ready!

January 2004 – Body shell spray priming

Body shell spray priming

Over the entire New Year’s holiday and, for that matter, for the entire Christmas holiday break the weather has been absolutely wonderful. We took advantage of exceptionally warm temperatures to open up the garage and spray the body shell with primer. The temperatures reached the mid-70s (Fahrenheit, 20+ Celsius), and so short sleeves did it, as you can see from the picture of Aaron spraying the right rear quarter panel. As everything was open and the fan was blowing, we didn’t use face masks, which probably weren’t necessary in this case. But we did wear ear protection because the compressor is so loud. In retrospect, I believe we should have worn our respirators, too.

Aaron isn’t too interested in doing the sanding, but he was ready to do spraying since it involved a new tool to play with and didn’t require tedious motion.

This was the first primer coat that was sprayed on, as opposed to brushed, and it went very quickly. Using a paint brush is a bit easier in preparation, but the real work comes with the block-sanding. It was very nice to see the coating go on without so much as a brush line anywhere, though Aaron was a bit too liberal with paint on the quarter panel since he left a few drip marks. These were easily removed with the blocking, though. You can see from the light lines at the top of the quarter panel that the blocking I’d done before has paid off in nice clear and predictable reflections. The quarter panels actually have been quite easy to do, perhaps because they are not large and flat surfaces. Flat surfaces and ones that require a long straight light line have been the troublesome ones for me.

As a matter of fact, two such surfaces make it impossible for this spray of primer to be the last. The outer sills (or rocker panels) are curved, of course, but the light line extends their whole length and it ought to be arrow straight. The outer sills are really shaped like quarter round moulding — quarter cylinders rounding out the connection of the side panels (and the doors) to the floor pans. Part of the problem (though not all of it) is due to the fact that I fabricated the left outer sill and it has a few irregularities that I need to work out. But I still am having some trouble getting the light lines on both sides arrow straight — it isn’t purely a matter of my fabrication methods (which were, I’ll admit, a bit crude). I think most of the issue is that the area is simply harder to work on because it’s lower and I don’t have a rotisserie to swing the area into easy access. The lower halves of the outer sills had at best a single brush coat of primer, and the sanding was difficult.

They’ll both need at least another spray of primer and blocking. The rest of the body shell is in pretty good shape, and I think that one more spray of primer will do the trick before we can spray color. The interior and the front bulkhead (firewall) will get no more primer. They’re ready for paint, after I sand the bulkhead a bit.

Spraying and blocking the body shell without the doors took two days. I did not spray the underside or the inside of the trunk (boot) nor did I block the front bulkhead or the interior. The bulk of the work was in the blocking the exterior sections of the car, and that was greatly simplified by spraying, as I said. The nice thing about using the brush in the first stages of priming was that it was easy to do small areas (like the detail section on the door that I did). If you manage to do all the prep, spraying the entire car is probably easier, despite the mess of spraying. Blocking sure is easier without brush marks.

Temperatures are expected to drop down to normal levels this next week, so I don’t think I’ll be spraying any more primer for a while. I also got a hold of some rock guard, though I decided against the 3M “Rocker Schutz” that has gotten a fair amount of exposure among the Jag restorers. The brand was recommended by a body fellow, and it has the added bonus of being a bit less expensive than the 3M product. I asked for “Rocker Schutz” by name, and we shuffled off through the shelves of stock to get it. He asked what I was going to use it on, and I told him. He said, “Let me show you something else” and we went off into the depths of the place. “I sell twenty times more of this stuff than the 3M,” he said. Now, I’m sure that “Rocker Schutz” is great stuff, but I figured I’d give this a try. The nice thing was that I didn’t have to shell out $60 USD to get the special 3M spray gun for this product. It uses a more generic aluminum low pressure gun, and the bottles of the product attach directly to the gun. I’ll provide more information later when I have a chance to use it on the underside of the car.

The body shell is virtually complete and ready for paint, so we’ll have to turn our attention to other things. That is a bit of a relief, to tell the truth. I am thinking that I will begin to study the IRS, and perhaps make some room in the garage to begin working on it. (The garage is a huge mess, I’m afraid.)

To close things up, a couple more photos:

December 2003 – Detail body repair, priming, sanding

Primer, sanding, finish prep

Patience is a virtue, I keep telling myself. If that is the case, I expect that people who do block-sanding and priming for a living are among the saints of the world. At least they are among the most virtuous, since it seems you can’t rush priming and blocking.The weather over the holidays here in North Carolina has been uncharacteristically warm, with temperatures reaching into the 60s (Fahrenheit, or about 15 Celsius). The garage has been nice and warm, and I have been able to do some more priming in shirt sleeves. As a result, the entire exterior and the body shell underside is primed. (Actually, there are small portions of the underside that need some primer — the front portion of the footwells that sit on the crude frame I made to hold the body.) On New Year’s Day 2003, we had just finished sealing the truck floor, and the car was still inverted. So, there has been progress.

The trunk floor was again something that needed some attention. When we put the car body on the rolling rack, we placed it on two two-by-four beams cushioned with styrofoam insulation. The body rests on the footwells and on sides of the trunk floor. In order to prime the parts of the trunk floor that were obscured by this set up, I first primed the housing for the IRS, let the primer dry, and then jacked up the trunk from the beams using some spare wood and two hydraulic jacks that float around the garage and elsewhere. (They’ve been wonderfully serviceable little jacks in their long history around here, jacking up old floors, a mud-bound horse trailer [twice!], and trucks in assorted situations.)

Anyway, the jacking opened up most of the space along the beams and all of the trunk floor for priming. As I mentioned, only the front footwells still need priming. So, after I’m done with the trunk floor, I’ll get those primed. I figure that I’ll get the “Rock Schutz” rocker guard on the edge of the trunk before I lower it, though.

All of these theatrics with the jacks could have been avoided, I know, if I had built or invested in an honest-to-goodness car “rotisserie.” Live and learn. If I ever restore another Jag, I’ll know better.

The front bulkhead (or firewall) is now completely assembled and ready for a final sprayed coat of primer and then some color. The picture shows the area partially blocked, since you can still see areas with the marker coat of spray paint. I put the marker coat on quite lightly. The footwell parts of the bulkhead came out quite well. I had to repair both of them last November. Check out the pictures of the footwell repairs and the front bulkhead as it was being dismantled. Since the bulkhead has many curved indentations and smaller flat areas, I had to abandon the block for the most part. Even my four-incher wouldn’t work very well in the constrained space. I’m not too worried about the smoothness of the finish on the bulkhead. I have concentrated on areas that are less obscured by parts either affixed to the bulkhead or by hoses and such. This section of the car body will just get a once over with sanding. I’ll do a spray of primer on the surface, followed by color.

The plan for spraying color is a little clearer to me now. I’m now planning on spraying color on the underside of the car and the front bulkhead first, perhaps with the interior and inside the trunk, too. My main interest is getting the body to a point where I can begin to reassemble sections like the independent rear suspension and the front end. It also seems prudent to hold off on spraying color on any exterior section until all the exterior is ready to accept color — including the bonnet.

That bonnet is now in a corner of the garage. When I need to clean excess primer off a brush, I smear it on the bonnet. That’s all I’m willing to do on the bonnet at this point. It can wait until I have a rolling body.

Detail body repair

The right door has required a lot of work, and I ran into a troublesome high spot that needed some hammer work and some additional body filler to remove a dip. The location is right in the vicinity of the “A” post, and it looks like one of those unfortunate dings that comes from a tree branch or something dropped.It seems a good occasion to go through the whole process of fixing the small ding at this stage in the priming and blocking process.

Detecting the dent — Why light is your friend
Although this dent was big enough to notice with the fingertips and from sand-through and left over “guide” spray paint, it’s good to see why light is your friend. The top photograph shows the “light line” that falls over the problem area. Of course, I didn’t need to see the line to see (or, rather, feel) the problem, but the line illustrates what happens when light hits a bump. You can set up a flourescent light to serve as a light source, but this often isn’t necessary. Most of the reflection comes from lights on my garage ceiling. For areas that are “below the curve” and therefore where I can’t use ceiling lights, I use a pair of halogen lights on a stand. I picked them up at the lumber yard for about $25 (USD) — a pair of 1000 watt halogens have come in handy.

Anyway, look for an interruption in the light line. You can usually get the feel for where the line ought to go with practice. If you are in doubt, use the vehicle’s symmetry to your advantage. Take a look at the light line on the corresponding section on the other side of the car.

It’s said that Sir William Lyons wanted to see an example of a pre-production car sprayed in black gloss so that he could look at the “light lines” of the design. In a sense, that’s what you do as you take in the light lines while block-sanding the primer. You look for the consistencies, or, rather, you look for the inconsistent in order to find the problems.

Hammer work and surface prep
Lots of times block-sanding an area will show you where the bumps and the dents are located. The dents or impressions keep the color of the guide coat that you lightly spray over the primed surface before blocking. They keep the color because the impression protects the paint from being sanded. High spots, the bumps, often appear because the primer below or even the base metal appears after block-sanding. I’ve heard to people using different colors of buildable primer simply to help identify high spots in this way. I suspect that using contrasting colored primers might make sense if there was great need to smooth a pretty rough area, but the project doesn’t seem to warrant that treatment.

Handling the high spots is easy. You tap them down. Do this gently and use lots of light taps on the high spot and in the vicinity. Stop frequently to see if you’ve tapped the spot enough. You should be able to tap a high spot down almost to the point where it is in line with the desired surface. If you overdo it, you’ll be able to handle the dent with filler. But remember that doing too much hammering has a tendency to stretch metal. And, at this point, you really shouldn’t be doing any but very minor adjustments. The majority of the body work should be behind you.

After the tapping is done, I use some 60 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface quite well, so that it accepts the body filler well.

“Easy Sand” body filler from Evercoat and block-sanding
The filler I’ve used for this final work is “Easy Sand” by Evercoat. Bill McKenna mentions it on his ’63 E-type FHC restoration website, and I found it at the local auto parts and body shop supply. The chain automotive stores, around here at least, don’t have it in stock. It is very good stuff. The filler comes in a tube-like bottle (see the picture), so dispensing it is easy and creates no mess at all. Like other fillers, Easy Sand is a two-part product, so it should be durable. The filler itself is very fine and goes on very smoothly — it’s more a cream than a putty. The manufacturers say it bonds well to metal, plastic, and primers.

The best thing about it for this kind of work is that it sands so nicely. When I’ve used other filler to bring up low spots in primer coats, I’ve always doubted whether the stuff would stick to primer, so I’ve ended up sanding right to the metal again. Also other fillers often sand badly when they are adjacent to buildable primer. The stuff usually is slightly harder than the primer, and so you have to be careful about outlining your filled area with a low spot in the primer. (Good blocking usually makes this less likely, though.) The Easy Sand product blocks very nicely.

I mix the filler on cardboard from soft drink containers or cereal boxes. I also use the cardboard to create a straightedge filler “knife.” These are probably not professional grade tools to use, but they have the advantage of being easy to clean up — you just throw them away. The downside of the cardboard filler knife is that it often doesn’t apply the filler smoothly. The third picture from the top shows the freshly applied filler, and it does have some troughs.

Block the area after the filler has cured. The area should be noticably better, though it might have a few imperfections. I noticed on this repair that I missed a small tap dent that I created while tapping down one of the high spots. It was not a particularly big dent, so I figured that the buildable primer would take care of it You can see the effect of the 60-grit sandpaper on the area. The two original high spots have merged to become one elongated spot, now flat from sanding. Flanking low spots have been filled with the filler. There isn’t very much filler left in the area, which is as it should be.

Repriming and blocking the repair
After the filler is blocked, it’s time to reprime the area. I use a paint brush to apply the primer, and that works quite well in small areas like this. After the primer is dry, block it again. This should bring the area to where you need it to be. I did this small repair after the second primer coat was blocked, and the problem was apparent. (This door has been a real job, and this little fix was nothing compared to the rest of the smoothing that was required. The big work was the result of many minor ripples all over the mid section of the door. That work was tedious mainly because getting the lines straight was complicated by the large surface area.) Any imperfections in the primed surface of the repair will get a at least one more going over before the surface is ready for color. I check the light line of the repaired area to see where it needs more attention. As you can see in the bottom picture, it’s in pretty decent shape, though it has some slight indentation yet. This will be taken care of in the next round of primer coat and blocking.

There is no doubt that these small repairs and the multi-staged priming and blocking is a time consuming process. But it’s also indispensible, unless you’re willing to settle for a less than acceptable finish.


November/December 2003 – Holiday greetings to all!

Yes, more primer but also greetings!

North Carolina weather has not cooperated with working the in garage, so I have set about some short moments priming and sanding the car’s body shell. There is not much new to report, though I will post some photographs after the Christmas Holiday week. I’m taking most of the week off, and perhaps warmer temperatures will be a nice Christmas gift to us this year. One thing that is needing some handling is a high spot on the right door. I’ll document the handling of that little detail, since there is a little difference in body correction at this stage in the game, that is, during the final points of priming and preparation for “spraying color.”

Holiday Greetings from the Cat Cage Garage! The picture perhaps offers little to the diehard restorer — it is, after all more about my wife and me than the old car behind us. She is beautiful, don’t you think? (I will let the indirection of that sentence remain, for the reader to resolve.) Thanks to John and Susan and Alec Boutin for giving us the picture that they took during a Thanksgiving visit!

I hope you will overlook the mess in the garage. I do have to contend with other objects in this little domain, and many of them get carted outside when it’s time to work on the car. In parts of rural North Carolina, people’s wealth has been counted by the number of outbuildings scattered on their property. This is probably a hold-over from the time when tobacco farmers cured their own leaf in small wooden curing barns. I am thinking that having another outbuilding wouldn’t be such a bad idea, since the garage is given over to my project and the accumulation of implements, tools, and children’s debris. The old chicken coop houses much that is not exactly poultry now. So, a small place out back somewhere for non-Jag equipment? Maybe in 2004….

Even though we can’t rev up the Jaguar yet, it has been one of a great many blessings given to us over the past year. We here in North Carolina wish everyone who visits this little space on the ‘net all the greatest and most wonderful of holidays and a fine start into a New Year 2004.

More on car restoration next weekend — this weekend we wish all of you and all of us restoration of other kinds.