Rebuilding The Body

This section covers the remounting of the body, refitting the engine, rebuilding the body panels and some interior work

Contents

Section A : Mounting the Body
Section B : Engine & Gearbox Refitting
Section C : Cooling System
Section D : Rebuilding the Rear End
Section E : Inside the Car
Section F : Rebuilding the Front End
 

A. - Mounting the Body

 

Preparation

In preparing to mount the body the chassis needed to be checked over to see if any tapped holes needed cleaning through.

Also the seatbelt reel boxes needed to be fitted and sealed into the bottom of of the 'B' posts, it's so easy to forget them (author goes red at this point!).

When the chassis was ready for the body to be dropped on I cleaned the underside of the body with white spirit to remove all the original Waxoyl, road grime and oil. A yucky job but well worth it. The underside was then treated to a coat of Armourall to give the tub a sheen and also it should make it harder for dirt to accumulate on the body. 

 

Lifting the Tub

Using the help of two other willing friends the body was lowered onto the chassis and to say the main parts of the chassis had been replaced the tub fitted quite well. After examining the points where the chassis fitted and didn't fit it was obvious that a near perfect fit would be possible, only two main problems prevented this...

 

Getting a Better Fit

The body tub needed to be moved backwards slightly and the 'A' posts were preventing this as they had been welded back on with their bottom ends too far forward by about 5mm. After the body had been lifted off an angle grinder (fitted with a cutting disc) was used to put a slit (cut vertically) in the body tub just in front of the 'A' posts and around the bottom of the inside of the 'A' posts. The tub was then put back onto the chassis and the cuts allowed to bottom of the tub to move backwards the required amount. The slits were fully closed a the bottom and were the 5mm at the top.

The second area that needed attention was the seat mounting rails, the fabricator had welded the outer edges of the rails too high on the sills. This problem was easily rectified by cutting the floor of the tub either side of the two rails on both sides of the car. These cuts extended about 1/3 the way across the floor.

The slits allowed the rear of the tub to sit down properly. With this all the holes in the 'B' posts and the footwell aligned with the original holes in the chassis, which was a great relief.

With the tub having several slits in it I set about fibreglassing them over to restore the integrity of the body. I made some thin aluminium plates to place under the floor rail slits and also the 'A' post slits. These would stop to body filler and resin from running out of the joints.

Before commencing with laying up the fibreglass I ensured the body was exactly lined up with the chassis by using some sash cramps to pull the tub right down onto the chassis so the wing support tube holes aligned properly. I also fixed the holes in the 'B' posts and sill by using some of the temporary rivet clamps

I used some body filler to fill in the lower parts of the slits at the seat rails, as these needed to look tidy from underneath.

With the body filler cured, my Father and I cut the fibreglass matting to shape forming several overlapping and increasing in size layers for all the areas. Then with some resin mixed up and armed with a couple of Wilko's cheap paintbrushes we applied the matting to the floor and 'A' post areas. After about an hour of mainly dab-dab-dabbing the matting the results were quite pleasing. Then the tub was then left for a few days to allow the resin to cure.

 

Fixing the Tub Down With the chassis and tub finally re-united and settled down I could at last commence fixing it back down. Three methods are used to hole the tub down1 - Bolts hold the footwell areas to the front of the sills, here I used some Sikaflex to seal the rather large holes and the extra holes that for some reason had been drilled through the tub as I installed the bolts.

Two more bolts hold the tub to the centre tunnel.

2 - Rivets hold the 'A' & 'B' posts and the floor to the chassis.

3 - Mastic, and I used Sikaflex, was used to seal the tub to the chassis in some critical areas. This would stop water from penetrating the inside of the car. The areas requiring sealing were : 'A' posts (externally), sills to floor, 'B' posts (externally and internally) and the seat belt reel boxes.

The only remaining jobs now were to clean off the extra body filler from under the seat rails and paint the filler black, clean out the tub and temporarily install the dashboard crosstube.

 


 

B. - Engine/Gearbox Refitting

 

Slipping it in!
                                    
Another major milestone was refitting the engine and gearbox assembly. All the necessary work on the assembly had been complete at this point

The rear engine mount need to be fitted to the centre tunnel with its four bolts first, with this done I could install the engine/'box. I remembered to tape a rag and plastic carrier bag over the end of the gearbox output shaft to prevent oil running out of it.

Using a converted garden hammock my father and I had made years ago for lifting a Reliant Regal Body the engine/'box was lifted up and the rolling chassis pushed in underneath.

Due to the design of the chassis, even with the front crossmember removed, the engine/'box needed to be tipped up to quite a steep angle, with one person working the hoist and the rolling the chassis in and another person moving the engine/'box around it slipped into the chassis. A rope was attached through the gearlever hole to allow the rear of the engine/'box to be lifted onto the rear mount, then it quickly dropped onto the front mounts and the job was done!

 

Fasteners The front engine mounts were bolted to the rubber bobbins and then the nuts tightened up, the rear mounts bolts I changed to socket headed setscrews to make them easier to tighten up so these took no time at all to install.

 

Crossmember & Shockers

With the above work complete I fitted the front crossmember and the front shock absorbers (leaving them to be fully tightened at a later point). Following on from this the front armature went back on not forgetting to fit the towing loop at the same time.

Starting to come together now.....

 

Other Tasks

Some tasks at this point were :

  • Fit the exhaust manifold, which I'd wrapped in Thermotek wrap and stainless steel locking wire.





  • The starter motor, suitably cleaned up and sprayed with matt black paint
  • The alternator and its adjustor bracket
  • The exhaust manifold heatshield


  • Handbrake cable
  • Propshaft bolts fitted (but theses need fully tightening when the handbrake can be applied).

 


 

C. - Cooling System

 

Fitting the Pipework

With the armature fitted the nearly new radiator I'd purchased way back at the start of the project could go in.

The main large diameter original rubber hoses needed only a good clean but the mild steel connecting pipes were completely rusty and there was no way were they going back on! They were replaced by some new stainless steel items bought from Queensbury Road Garage in Kettering.

Not the cheapest parts I’d bought but of good quality and a perfect fit, all four pipes (including the 15mm heater pipe) cost just over £100 and being made from stainless are a “fit and forget” job.

The rubber hoses I did replace were the adaptor hose that runs from the water pump to the 15mm heater pipe assembly, I bought a Samco silicon hose from Merlin Motorsport . The reason for using a silicon hose was the quality and long life, I did not want to be changing this hose to often. And also I bought new 15.8mm heater hoses from Halfords to connect the heater matrix to the engine as these were cheap enough to buy and the old ones looked a bit past it

Armed with a new set of stainless jubilee clips and the hoses cleaned and coated with Armourall the cooling system took shape. The only area that could not be completed on the cooling system at this stage was the header tank as this sits on the LH inner wing, which had not been fitted as yet. For now the work at the front of the car was complete.

 


 

D. - Rebuilding the Rear End

 

Rear Armature

At last after months of work the car started looking like a car again! And this section would bring it on a considerable way more……

The first task was to fit the rear armature to the chassis, a straight forward exercise. The fabricator had made a good job of renewing the rear chassis rails and the lower section of the armature.

 

Rear Wings

The rear wings went on next, this being another test of the alignment of the chassis and the rear armature, fortunately it fitted extremely well. Before the LH wing was fitted I’d remembered to run the aerial wire through the body. This allowed me to carry on and fit the rear bumper complete with the rear light units which I’d previously cleaned up. Both the rear wings and the bumper had been washed  inside and out and the areas having the bolts or overlapping other panels had been polished with Mer.

All the holes in the armature and ‘B’ posts had been tapped through M5 but some had stripped so these were taken out to M6. I used 16mm long stainless steel button headed setscrews to attach the panels. Now we had turned a corner – body panels!

 

Rear Bumper The rear bumper needed some brackets remanufacturing and their design modifying at the same time. The original brackets connected the bumper’s lowest edge to the rear chassis rail but it was obvious that by making the brackets longer that they could also connect to the boot liner and hold the bumper far better. So I made up some new brackets in 25mm stainless strip steel (16g). They worked really well.

 

Rear Wiring

Before the boot liner could go into position I needed to repair the rear section of the wiring loom. This turned out to be quite straight forward and using the new earth bosses I’d had the fabricator put on the rear chassis rail the rear lights should be reliable.


The LH rear earth boss combined with a slotted aperture for the exhaust pipe

Some connector needed replacing and where the loom passes under the boot liner I re-taped a section incorporating some PVC protection tubing, so it should not wear through again (see photo). I also made sure the 10mm neoprene that the boot liner sits on was cut to stop the loom to from being pressed on. 

A new aerial was installed electrically i.e the cables were ran through the body and it’s earth connected to the chassis.

With all the above completed this allowed me to test the fit of the rear deck.

 

Rear Deck Again another good fit, so it too was screwed into place and the aerial installed, the only tricky part here was fitting the fuel filler neck pipe. I took time to ensure the hole in the new grommet aligned correctly with the hole in the rear deck as this lets any water accumulating around the fuel filler neck to escape.

 

Boot Liner

The boot light switch went in at this stage and whilst sorting this out I remembered to tie some string around the boot light and feed it through the hole so when the liner was fitted I would have to struggle and fish about for the boot light.

As mentioned earlier I placed some 10mm neoprene on the chassis to sit the boot liner on. So with this stuck down I dropped the boot liner in and most of the holes lined up ok, only couple needed to be cleaned out. Various different fasteners hold the liner in place, I also remembered to bolt the lower part of the boot liner to the rear inner wings and the new rear bumper brackets to the boot liner’s floor. with these done all the panels look to be well aligned with each other.

 

Boot Lid

The inside of the boot lid was sprayed satin black as it was various shades of back, white and green! – This was in readiness for it to be fitted to the car.

After a clean with Armourall the boots seal was fitted and then the boot lid went on. Here the first problem occurred, the boot did not shut right down as the liner was sitting too high. This was easily rectified by removing the seal and grinding some off  the top edge of the fibreglass. After a couple of attempts the boot shut quite well.

The boot striker then went on, I’d cut the edge off 2 penny washers to allow them to sit down properly on the striker. I shut the boot and waited for the ‘click’, would it open again? Yes the button gave a confidence inspiring ‘click’ confirming the striker was sited correctly, so I nipped up the bolts.

A two-minute job saw the boot stay fitted and working well.

The completed rear panels and boot area looked good as you can see from these pictures, even friends could see the progress and how worthwhile the effort was.

 


 

E. - Inside The Car

 

Seat Belt and Reels

Mmm, hands up here! – First real mistake of the project. Guess who’d forgot to put the seat belt reel boxes in to the ‘B’ post before the tub was fitted?!

Never mind the tub only just went on anyway as the ‘B’ posts had been plated. I cut off the four flanges of the boxes and this allowed them to fit through the hole in the tub. Using Sikaflex I mastic’d them into position.

The four seat belt mounting brackets were painted and when dry the reel and brackets were fitted.

 

As the ‘B’ post covers are part of the assembly the were left loose waiting for the carpet to be installed.

Rear Carpet

Following a quick vacuuming the rear carpet had a test fitting, looked good. I decided to fit some extra 10mm thick closed cell foam under the carpet and around the rear of the tub where the hood parks itself. The foam was held in place with contact adhesive. I also needed to fit some small wooden blocks to screw presstuds for the hood cover hold down straps to as the foam would be too thick to directly screw through. I cut out squares in the foam so the wood blocks sat on the body then finally fitted the carpet.

As the foam had raised the carpet up it fitted better around the rear of the tub as now there was plenty to tuck under the rear lip.

 

Hood Fixings &
'B' Post Area

With the rear carpet fitted the ‘B’ post covers could now go on and be screwed/riveted in place. The top fixings actually are press-studs for the hood cover.

Now the seat belt top mount/hood pivot brackets could go on, they and the 6 thick washers had been sprayed satin black. The washers spaced out the bracket from the ‘B;’ post to ensure the brackets did not squash and crack the cover. I used some caphead setscrews (Allen heads) to fasten the brackets in place, these looked far better than using normal hexagon headed setscrews as these fasteners are visible all the time.

To finish off this area of the car the hood press-studs needed to be reattached to the rear deck. I had taken them off to allow the rear deck to be removed from the tub during the disassembly of the car. Two methods are used to hold the studs to the panel: 

  • The outer studs are held on by just riveting them to the panel
  • The rear four rivets across the back of the panel actually fix into some tapping plates inside the tub. Originally these were just self-tapped into the plates (the plates are riveted to the tub). I decided to use some stainless steel M4 x 16 countersunk Allen headed setscrews so I tapped out the plates and attached the press studs to the panel. When I tested the fit of the hood onto these four studs but the head of the setscrew protruded too far out the stud so I had to machine off about 1.5mm from their heads. With this done the studs ‘clicked’ together perfectly.
Main Carpet

The main carpet was very dirty and needed a good clean before it was fitted back into the car. Years of accumulated dirt, mud, dust and rust from the seat rail mountings had taken their toll on the carpet.

It looked like it would be a long, difficult task to clean the carpet. I used some Halfords ‘Heavy Duty’ carpet cleaner, which comes in a trigger type dispenser, to attempt to clean up the mess.

One application removed all but the most stubborn of stains. Another application removed these marks and stepping back to admire the handywork I surprised even myself on how brighter and cleaner the carpet looked.

The old seat rails and their washers had gone very rusty and also with the new rails being welded in at slightly the wrong angle I made up some new large diameter spacers out of Nylon bar. Each one of the eight spacers was measured to suit its location. I sealed around the edges of the large holes I drilled in the tub to take the spacers with Sikaflex to keep out the water and also stop the floor ‘panting’ on the rails. Do this job before fitting the carpet as it is very sticky stuff that gets everywhere!

Using duct tape to stick the loom in place and then a quick vacuum the tub meant the main carpet was ready to fit. Two minutes work really bought the car to life.

 

Door Seals

Just to make life more comfortable whilst working on the electrics I cleaned up the door seals I’d rescued from the Orion as they were in very good condition, thus saving buying some new ones. So the seals could go on properly the vinyl near the ‘A’ posts required some attention and using some contact adhesive they tidied up very well.

I left the seals long at the top of the ‘A’ posts as I was not fitting the hood seal yet. To be safe I taped over the bare ends of the seals.

 

Handbrake &
Gearlever
Gaitor

Firstly the gear leaver was refitted to the box using the 3 Torx screws.  Tatty, that’s the best description of the old gaiters.  A trip round to my Dad’s to procure some black Rexine and an hour spent at the sewing machine produced two new gators that looked good.

My Dad made up a new plywood ring for the base of the gear lever which was then stuck to the inside of the gators with contact adhesive.  Velcro strips stuck to the underside fixed the gator to the carpet.  The top ring was rubbed down, plastic primed and sprayed satin black.  The handbrake cable slipped over the grip and the last 20mm of joint was then sewn up on the job.

 

Glovebox

The glove box was cleaned up and the velour treated to some Halfords Fabric Cleaner. Two self tapping screws held the assembly to the centre tunnel but before fitting I’d connected up the wires for the mirrors.

Until the electrics are completed this brought around the end of the work I could do on the interior.

 


 

F. - Rebuilding the Front End

 

Front Wings &
Rad Panel
Lots to do here!  So I began with the heater motor which needed to be re-sprayed.  Luckily I noticed that it had seized at some point so I had to free it off and lubricate the bearings at the same time.

The front wings could now go on the car, so after they had been cleaned and the wheel-side of the inner wing was painted black I test fitted them to the car. They both fitted well, the only alteration that was needed to make them fit properly was to trim some excess metal off the bottom of the A posts.  The wings were held in place with M5 x 16mm Stainless Button Heads and large OD washers.

The radiator panel was a nice simple job, just a few new setscrews to hold the cleaned up panel to the front armature.

 

Headlights

Whilst the rest of the work has been carried out, all the headlight support brackets had been away at Faircharm Restorations for blasting and painting.

A quick trip to see Shane at lunchtime found me in possession of a box of rather shiny black brackets which as you can see from the photos made the old headlights look like new.  The headlight covers were cleaned and then treated with Armourall – they came up really well.  Again, new fasteners all round made the job quicker and look far more complete.

With the lights in I trial fitted the nosecone and the headlight panel and after some re-alignment of the lights they fitted well enough.  Whilst the nosecone was on I also checked the fit of the new driving/fog lights and installed some new captive M5 nuts for the indicator/sidelights.

 

Exhaust System

Fortunately, the previous owner had fitted a stainless exhaust system, all I needed to do was buy some new clamps.

I went for these band clamps in stainless bought from Goffy.  Excellent quality, super price (half that of Motorsport shops!) and they look far better than the U-bolts normally fitted. 


I needed to make up a new tailbox bracket as the old one had been removed when the rearmost chassis rail had been replaced.  Armed with a piece of cardboard and a hanging bracket cut off the Orion exhaust system I produced a template bracket for my Dad to make up a new bracket.  It fitted first time and after a coat of primer and a couple of coats of matt black it was ready to fit. 

The design of the bracket and strengthened rear rail allowed me to move the hanger up and down as well as left to right.  This meant the exhaust tailpipe could exit the bumper in the middle of the cut out.

 

Filling the Cooling System

Remember mistake number one?  The seat belt boxes, well here was number two!

After mixing up the anti-freeze 50/50 with water (the car takes around 10 litres) I  used a funnel to fill via the header tank.  After about 6 litres of water had been added to the system my daughter shouted “Daddy, look, water”  Arrgh!  One of the joints was leaking.  The jubilee clips felt tight but when treated to a socket and ratchet it was quite loose, as was the next, and the next ….   Seems that after a couple of weeks the rubber had given a bit and all the joints needed to be tightened.

Something I should have checked beforehand!!

With the joints tightened and the rest of the water added (the engine needs to run as there is bound to be an airlock somewhere) there appeared to be no more leaks.  The next morning I checked again and all seemed well.

 

This concludes the work to building up the body as far as is possible now.

The next section starts covers the electrical repairs.