Behold, the back of the van with the new rear pillars fitted – and the doors which fit perfectly – or at least as well, if not better than they did before I started chopping the body about. This is a huge relief. I’ve just got to fiddle in a section of the bottom rail which I had to cut out in order to fit the left hand door pillar, which should be as straightforward as the right hand side which you can see in its respondent shade of weld through copper primer.
Anyway – the main subject of this post is all about paint removal. I need to prepare the van for paint and since so much of the front, floor, sills, bulkhead, rear wings, rear pillars (and soon to be purchased new front wings) is new metal, I’ll need to etch prime these bits before I can epoxy prime the body prior to putting the top colour coat on. And – because etch primer will bury into the edge of any existing paint and lift it up, I’ll need get the whole shell, doors, bonnet, petrol tank and spare wheel panel back to bare metal first. Soda blasting would seem the most effective way of doing this. Soda as opposed to grit (sand) or any other aggressive media, because it (a) won’t blow holes in the incredibly thin metal (0.8ml steel) and (b) will not introduce heat into the metal and buckle it to buggery.
I got in touch with ‘Dan the blaster’ – a local expert in the art of car shell preparation, who works on Ferrari, Porsche, Rolls and all manner of classic cars. He let me down gently – explaining that he could strip my van and that there were two possible outcomes. The first was that he could do it quickly, and therefore reasonably economically but there was a very good chance that there would be very little van left at the end of the process – or secondly, that he could do it slowly and carefully but that this would take at least 2 days of his time and would cost around £2,000. Did I mention that he works on Ferrari’s and Porsche’s? Yes – these cars are stripped by him and are then typically treated to a £10,000 paint job. ‘What are my options?’ I asked… Cue sharp intake of breath – ‘You can get it dipped, but you’ll end up with stuff running out of all the seams which will ruin your paint job, or you could take it to a cowboy sandblaster and sweep up the remains into a couple of bin bags..’ and so it went on. I could use a DA sander, he suggested, but this would make an awful dusty mess and will put heat into the metal, which will distort it – or you could hand strip it with paint stripper and remove any residue with 120 grit paper, then finish off with 240 grit.
Hand stripping it is then. Recent EU legislation decreed that paint stripper can no longer contain methylene dichloride – this was the active ingredient in the old Nitromors paint stripper. It’s horrible stuff, bad for the environment and bad for ones health. The new paint strippers are much less effective, but are also safer and less harmful to the environment, so this is the way to go. Armed with a bottle of Wickes Paint Stripper and some cling film, I plastered a 2 ft wide section of the roof with stripper and wrapped it with cling film and left it overnight to do its work. Here are the results.
The top coat of Farrow and Ball French Grey has peeled away, leaving the next coat of brush painted silver paint more or less intact. Underneath this silver coat are the original cellulose top coats and under this is the original primer. It will take a few more applications to get through this lot, so I’m in it for the long game. Paint on the stripper, cover with clingy, remove a single coat or two and repeat until I get to bare metal. It will cost a few quid in paint stripper and will take a few days of effort but it will be worth it it the end. Next steps? After stripping, I’ll take the body off the chassis again, paint the underside with Hammerite or POR 15, weld on the new rear wings, weld in the front door hinge brackets and fit the doors, paint the chassis, strip and repaint everything (body and all associated panels with etch primer, ready for the epoxy primer and top coat. Then put back everything I originally removed, replace the clutch, fit my Michelin Man lorry mascot, put the windows back in, sort out the wheels, bumpers and headlight bowls etc. etc. So much to do. I’ve got bags of bits all over the place and a wiring loom which looks like a partially unravelled birds nest – ho hum..