Tag Archives: british racing green

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.

October 2003 – Color choice, subframe & “boot” primer

Color? It’s going to be British Racing Green

Ah! to fix dents is easy. You see them, you fix them. You know when it’s right. Not so with color. I know that I have driven my family crazy with this decision, and I can’t but help think that even this decision is, well, provisional — at least until the paint sits in a can in the garage.

I know I have felt as committed to

  • Opalescent Silver Blue — too much like Carolina Blue, and I’m a Duke man,
  • Opalescent Dark Blue — Duke blue on a car, but my wife’s truck is the color already and red or dark blue interiors are recommended, and
  • Opalescent Dark Green — great in theory, but the car recently sprayed the color in the Classic Jaguar workshop just didn’t appeal to me.

And British Racing Green is a color with roots. The earliest surviving E-type roadster, if I’m not mistaken, is BRG. It was (and still is) known as 77 RW, restored in 2001. British Racing Green is a good traditional color for British sports cars. So why not have one in rural North Carolina, too?

Centering the bonnet subframe

When we stuck the bonnet on the frames, just to see what the old thing looked like, we noticed that the bonnet was cockeyed. The trouble is in the bonnet frame, which probably sustained some accident damage. (My initial observations, including a description of the way the damage was “repaired” or at least hidden, appear in a previous entry.) What we needed to do was more systematically and geometrically characterize the damage: What was pitched? How much was it off center? Where is the pivot for the pitch to the left side of the car?

The exploration really began with some crude drawings that I made back in August, when we could measure the effect that the frame damage was having on the fit of the bonnet. Those measurements showed that the bonnet was set too far back on the left side — in fact the bonnet was butted against the firewall (front bulkhead) on that side. On the right side of the car, the bonnet was too far forward by about 3 centimeters or so. Drawing out the general structure of the frame identified a couple of places where the pitch to the left could have pivoted. The entire frame structure could be pitched, meaning that the side frames (the “A” shaped structures that make up the engine compartment) could be bent. This would mean that the pivot would be at the center of the firewall. Or, the front frame piece that holds the bonnet and the radiator could be pitched. This would mean that the pivot would be at the center of the so-called “picture frame,” the front of the engine compartment that attaches to the side frames. Clearly, the pivot from the center of the picture frame would be preferable, since a pivot off of the firewall would be virtually irreparable.

I doubted that the damage was off the firewall, since there was no other evidence of damage there. But the side frames themselves could bear the damage in some not-too-apparent way, I thought. The left side frame already concerns me because of the rust damage I discovered on it.

Another thing that helped was a schematic of the body shell and the front frame structure that appears in the Terry’s Jaguar catalogue (“Body Dimensions,” Terry’s Jaguar Parts, 11th ed. [Benton, Illinois, 2001], p. 6-3). The drawing and measurements help to situate the frame structure especially in relation to easily figured out points on the body. The information is for “checking points for accidental damage on [the] XKE body and front frame.” The only thing that might be a bit misleading is the accuracy of the measurements. They are, I believe, too precise, sometimes going to the 32nd of an inch. That kind of accuracy usually isn’t necessary for the body, since fitting sections together often includes bolts and holes that are designed and intended to be used to make minor adjustments to the fit. But this catalogue is a good reference to have on the shelf. Terry’s Jaguar Parts has a good reputation as a parts supplier. They’ll send you a catalogue if you ask.

Using TJP’s “Body Dimensions” as a guide, we strung some string along the center line of the body shell, extending it out into the front frame area. We found that the picture frame hit dead center as it should, but the bonnet frame was off about 2 centimeters to the left. We marked the point where the center line of the car crossed the bonnet frame hinge tube (the forwardmost pipe) and the radiator mount. We measured these points against the centers of the hinge tube and the mount. Then we tied the string to the center of the picture frame and ran the string to the true center of the bonnet frame hinge tube and checked to see where the string crossed the radiator mount. It crossed at the center point of the mount.

That process of string measuring might seem a bit complicated, but it established that the problem with the fitting of the bonnet was entirely in front of the picture frame. The pivot of the bending was at the center of the picture frame. The picture of the frame from the top plainly shows the bend, and now that I see the frame in a photograph I see how rough it looks. So, now I’m wondering about having even this frame repaired. But that brings up another topic….

On not repairing the subframes

A kind email message from fellow E-type restorer Bill McKenna urged me not to have the damaged left frame repaired. The steel (Reynolds 351) was brazed from the factory and is a fairly touchy metal to work with if you don’t want to lose the temper or otherwise weaken the metal. As Bill put it: “To me those frames are all that’s between a nice drive in the country and a major disaster, so not a good thing to skimp on.” Now, I don’t think that the bonnet frame has quite the stress that the other frame parts have to bear. Nor does the bonnet frame quite have as much riding on it in terms of safety. So, I think I could have the bonnet frame repaired.

About the same time that Bill sent his note, a thread on jag-lovers.org brought up the welding issue, and hammered the point home about “repairing” frames. It just doesn’t seem wise, and even if you would have the repairs done following all of the steel manufacturer’s guidelines, you’d probably end up spending about what a new frame would cost. And, having “repaired” it properly, you’d still have a 40-year-old frame at the end.

I think that my left frame will need to be replaced, not repaired. I’m going to have to look around.

Tie-Coat primer in the “boot”

“Tie-Coat Primer” is designed to bond well even to cured POR-15 coatings, and so I’m using Tie-Coat as a base for the topcoat in internal sections of the body and as a base for high-build primer on external sections. I’m trying something out. I read on jag-lovers.org that someone brush paints high-build primer, since the stuff is supposed to be sanded smooth in any case, so why mess with the mess of shooting the paint out a sprayer? When I first read that, I dismissed it, but after a while it did make some sense to me. And so I’m testing it, not with a high-build primer, but with the Tie-Coat, which is billed as a “sandable primer.” I painted the inside of the trunk (aka: “boot”) with Tie-Coat, and I put two coats on the trunk floor, since I’ll need to smooth it very well, especially in the area around the spare tire. I do not plan to spray this area, or any other inside section of the car, with high-build primer. That’s for the outside.

In addition to the inside of the trunk, I brush painted the upper nose section of the bonnet, which still needs attention. I figured that the paint-primer-with-a-brush hypothesis could be better tested on the nose, too. It certainly could stand some smoothing. I’ll be treating the nose as though it has high-build on it, so I’ll be using a guide coat of some sort of paint to mark where I’ve block-sanded. If brush painting works, I’ll put all of the Tie-Coat on with a brush. I still think that the final primer needs to be applied with a spray gun.

Pictures below show the “boot” before and after the primer went on.