This Wheel's on fire

It’s cold in the workshop, so a hot wheel or two would be very handy. There’s no heating whatsoever, so when it’s 4 degrees outside it’s the same inside – sometimes I think it’s actually colder than it is outside. This is not an ideal working environment because paint won’t dry, filler takes ages to go off and well, as you can imagine, the thought of working in a fridge is frankly quite off putting. Nonetheless, I will persevere. I have some time off work as my contract finished at the end of November and there’s little prospect of getting a new tranche of IT work until the new year, so the workshop has become my new office and the van has taken over from sitting at a desk in a nice warm office, peering at spreadsheets and tooling around with SQL data queries.

I’m nearly ready to put the body back on the chassis, which should happen on Thursday or Friday when I press gang my fellow members of the ‘Old man’s memory club’ to help me lift it back onto the chassis, before we adjourn to the pub. I’m expecting to see both Pete’s and Steve but not Chris, who has been spotted in town (by Steve) but has been too busy with family issues to come down to the pub and chew the cud with the rest of us. This is a shame because last week we had an impromptu music quiz about which sequels were better than the original releases. Pete Fish, armed with Spotify, judged my suggestion; Fun Boy Three’s version of My Lips Are Sealed’ is better than the original version by the ‘Go-Go’s’. But – as Pete was keen to point out, Jane Wiedlin (Go-Go’s) and Terry Hall (Fun Boy Three) were an item at the time both versions were co-written and released, therefore he decreed that my contribution was null and void on account that they were intimately intertwined and therefore were incapable of any independent creativity. Pete then went on to tell us what we should have known about pop sequels and prequels ad-infinitum with many many examples backed up by short clips played on his mobile phone. I’m sure you get the picture.

Back to the real subject of this blog – the mating of chassis and body. In preparation for this milestone, I have fitted some tape to the chassis – for the body to rest on and have punched a load of holes in it where the bolts go through. I popped the dozen or so M7 speed clips in place, so it’s all ready for the big lift.

How hard can it be? As my son George would say; ‘no drama’s’ – except that he is apostrophally challenged so it would have read ‘dramas’, which would me more at home on a Greek restaurant menu.

Wheels – luckily for me, the chap in the unit next door to the workshop is a tyre fitter, so I wheeled the wheels round to him and upon offering some pecuniary enticement, he took the tyres off so that I could prep and paint the wheels. However, whilst driving without due care and attention last year, I clouted a traffic island on my way out of a roundabout and dented both offside wheels rather badly.

I did try and pull out the edge of the rim with some mole grips, hammer and cold chisel but to no avail. These wheels are a lot tougher than they look and frankly I made a total hash of it, so it’s going in the scrap metal skip along with the other one. I did (briefly) think about cutting out a section of rim from the other damaged wheel and welding it it in. However, as I can get brand new Michelin wheels for about £65 each, I might as well just get a new pair and be done with it.

Drivers door – I changed my mind yet again and have decided to use the ‘new’ door I picked up a few months ago on eBay. The outer skin on the old door has parted company from the inner part of the frame. See below

I did manage to get it back in place and gave it a good dressing with the hammer and dolly, but I don’t think it will be long before it pops back off again. There’s only a few millimetres of steel to grip. I suppose I could put a few tacks of weld along it, but this door also needs a repair to the bottom edge – the bit that grips the door seal – and has a very large shallow dent under the door handle. It makes me wonder if all 2CV’s have dented doors, just under the handle and if this is the case, then perhaps it has something to do with the design of the doors…. As it happens, the ‘new’ door also has a dent in the same place, but not so deep, so all in all it’s a better candidate. Here it is with a few skims of filler over the dents, prior to flattening it off. It’s so cold in the workshop (did I mention that it’s cold?) that the filler would not go off, so I had to use the hair dryer to encourage the chemical reaction between the filler and the hardener. It’s not my hair dryer – I don’t have enough hair to warrant owning a hair dryer. I found it in the workshop so there must be someone more hirsute than me using the space – or possibly the workshop used to be a hairdressing salon in a previous life.

The Door Dingers have been busy with this one

Another hour of flatting off with a block and 400 grit wet and dry paper and some more tinkering with filler and I was ready to spray on some primer. This is what they look like now – I expect they will be dry by January…

Not entirely ‘ding’ free but at least they won’t look out of place compared to the rest of the bodywork

It remains to be seen whether the doors will fit into their respective apertures. They didn’t fit properly before I totally rebuilt the front half of the body shell so I’m not expecting it to be an easy job. I’m not looking forward to faffing around with them to be brutally honest but I suppose I’d better try and make them fit before I put the top coat on.

Filler – ’cause this is filler night…

Back to the doors. I had another look at the drivers door today, which to be honest I’d written off as not worth doing for 2 reasons:- Firstly the outer panel is dented, not badly but there are 2 large areas of shallow dents which looked like they would be difficult to sort out and secondly, the lower edge where the door seal locates is rusted out in places. I do have another pair of doors which are not rusted at the bottom but which have lots of dents and rusty scabs on them. So – it’s a question of how much work it will take to sort out the old doors compared with what I need to to with the replacements. As I’ve already stripped the old doors down to bare metal, which was a mission that I’d rather not repeat and – and because the replacement door need the same treatment and also need to be repaired, I going to stick with what I started with. Old doors it is then.

There’s a big shallow dent just under the door handle where someone (erm.. me..) used their knee to close the door on account of the fact that the somehow the door had become larger than the aperture it was designed to fit into. I can’t planish out the dent and I’m not confident that I can heat shrink the metal to get it straight again, so I decided to fill it with a skim of filler. Not my favourite method of repair but needs must.

the white patches are where I’ve applied filler to rectify dents

For the uninitiated, a here’s a bit of filler about filler. Body filler is a resin based 2 part product, the filler which comes in a tub or tin and a tube of hardener. Mix the 2 parts in the prescribed ratio – a golf ball sized lump of filler to a pea sized piece of hardener. Mix well – until all the streaks of hardener have blended in with the filler and apply. I use an ‘onion skin’ pad to mix the filler on, but anything clean and smooth will do and then apply it with a plastic spreader. It’s not easy to get the right amount on first time, you need to put just a bit more on than is needed and you need to get it as flat as possible, without streaks and lines and you need to do all this before it goes off, which means you have about 3 or 4 minutes to spread it out. Once it’s on, leave it to dry. Don’t be tempted to keep fiddling with it, you will make a hash of it and get annoyed.

When it has gone off – after about 5 or 10 mins depending on temperature, you can flatten it off with some wet and dry paper. I use 240 grit paper lubricated with water and I wrap the paper around a sanding block. It’s important to keep the paper flat across the surface of the filler, otherwise you risk following the profile of the original dent – in which case you’ll have spent a load of time and energy and will have made little improvement.

There’s a good example of this in the picture below. I’d filled the dent and then set about sanding it flat but didn’t have enough filler, so the sanding block and paper just followed the contours of the dent. You can see the gap under the straight edge.

Mind the gap!

More filler was applied, flattened off and now it looks much better

mmm…. flat…
looking good!

Don’t expect to get away with just one application of filler – it usually takes 2 or 3 skims, flattening it off in between each coat to get it right. Other issues with using filler are:

The edges must be feathered in so that there’s no discernible ‘edge’ when you run your finger over it. If you can feel something, no matter how smooth it looks to the naked eye, it will look shoddy when it’s painted.

You can’t put filler on top of paint – actually you can but you won’t be able to blend the edge in. This is because paint is softer than filler and will sand down faster, leaving a ragged edge which will really show up when painted.

So – you have to apply filler to bare metal and then spend however long it takes to get it flat, smooth and feathered in at the edges. This is one one reason why it’s not my favoured method of repairing panels – much better to try and planish out dents with a hammer and dolly if you can. Another issue with filler is that it ‘sinks’ as it dries out, which can take a week or two – long after you think you have got it right and have already painted your repair – and it can crack and drop out if the panel gets dented again.

There are a few brands and types of filler available. Isopon P38 is a good all rounder, P40 is usually used to bridge holes (the unscrupulous will use it to fill rust holes) as it has more fibreglass strands in it. I use Evercoat ‘easy sand’ – it’s quite runny and seems to settle quite flat before it dries.

Other news: I did a bit of work on the chassis and engine today. All the tinware has been sanded down and painted and is looking much better. I sanded and then cleaned the chassis with some panel wipe, before painting a coat of red oxide over the bare metal bits – most of the floor as it turned out. It will get a coat of black paint in the next day or two.

I’ll sort out the jelly moulds next, they will be stripped and painted – or I might just lacquer the bare steel. Oh – and see that dented bonnet in the background? It has a very good hinge on it – no rust at all and is free to anyone who’s willing to collect it from Norwich – just send me a PM and we’ll make the necessary arrangements.

I also removed the 2 rear batteurs – they will be cleaned and re-painted – and I’ll do the same with the two on the front wheels. I think the front wheels need to be removed to get them off, so that will be a job for another day. I have 4 shock absorbers which were retro-fitted to the van a few years ago, so I could leave the batteurs off, but I’ll keep them – they must do something – right?

a brace of batteau

My space in the workshop is starting to look messy, so I’ll have a good tidy up next. It won’t be long before I can put the body back on the chassis which will free up a bit of space but there’s still tons of work to do before that. Will it ever end?

It ain’t what you do (it’s the way that you do it)

A few more jobs have been completed since the last blog update, although progress has been slower than anticipated because of other commitments, general laziness, dithering and procrastination.

However, documenting the restoration process via this blog is one way of ensuring that I keep on going with the work.  After all, there may be some of you out there in the etherweb that might otherwise feel cheated if I were not committed to completing the restoration, or more likely: committed to doing the work but without proof of the journey and no outcome to show for it.    This is all sounding like a political party manifesto, which it isn’t but I’m sure you get the point….

Anyway,  it’s starting to get cold, damp and generally autumnal, therefore spending long hours in the unheated workshop is losing its appeal when compared with sitting at home in front of the woodburner with a glass of wine and the rest of the Internet to finish off.   Carry on I must though, so here we are – in no particular order:

Seats – luckily there are only 2 of these in the Van.  Both have had new covers in the not too distant past (6 or 7 years ago at a guess) and although grubby, looked like they might clean up ok.  Once I’d undone and removed the 44 rubber bands that attach the cover to the frame on each seat, I decided that a quick 20 minutes in the washing machine might  bring them up nicely.  First I had to remove the 4 wires in each seat which the rubber bands hook on to.  They were a bit rusty so I gave them a quick coat of paint before re-inserting them into the newly laundered covers.  The rubber bands had not fared as well, they are quite perished and stretch more than they should.  This makes the seat baggy, unsupportive and uncomfortable (not unlike the Government), so a new set of bands was ordered for each seat. They come in sets of 50, so I’ll have a few spares.  No doubt I will lose these immediately by putting them ‘somewhere safe’.  When I do eventually need them  (assuming  I manage to find them again) , they will be perished and useless, so I might as well throw them away now.  As well as the spares, I have 88 perished rubber bands that I can’t quite bring myself to throw away, so perhaps I should put all of them in a plastic bag, throw them in the garage and forget about them.

I also stripped and painted the seat frames with the correct AC140 Grey paint that I intend to use for the wheels and front bumper.  Overall this was a satisfying job to get completed, although it all took much longer than I thought it would.

A naked seat frame – not much to it is there…?
New rubber bands and laundered covers
The finished article – splendid

The front bumper is in a much worse state that I thought – there’s lots of corrosion and deep pitting.  Also, it looks like the previous owner has chopped off the 2 ‘fillets’ of metal that the front edge of the bonnet sits on, so now I think I might just as well get a new bumper.  £60 or so will get me a period 2CV bumper to which I can fit my existing over-riders and rubber inserts.  £130 will get me a nice new PO tubular bumper with integrated over-riders.  I think the PO bumper will suit the van better than the standard one, so maybe that’s what I’ll get, although at twice the cost of the standard offering, I’m wondering if its worth it. 

Lamp bar – cleaned and sanded as best I can.  There was lots of thick brush coated paint to flatten off.  I did think about getting it back to bare metal with the wire bush and angle grinder, but there are wires poking out of its various orifices (orifi?) and it’s altogether an awkward shape to deal with, so will take an age to strip and since most of it is hidden when the bonnet is down, I’m taking the less onerous option.   This will also get a coat of the grey AC140 paint before re-fitting.  No picture of this as it’s still a work in progress

More paintwork – I painted the outside of the bonnet but again had issues with the paint gun.  It as if the ‘tractor’ paint I’m using has a very short ‘use by’ time once mixed with the thinner.  More than 5 mins or so and it starts to clog up the gun internals.  Anyway it looked horrible so I grabbed another spray gun with a much larger 1.7ml nozzle and blasted a lot more paint on the bonnet.  It levelled out nicely, so much so that it’s much better than the rest of the shell and wings which I’ve already sprayed.  I might have to flatten it all off and spray it again but then it could be that I’m the only person that will either notice or care. 

of course all that shiny paint means that every dent, pimple and tiny defect is now visible

 I also painted the triangular panels that sit between the front wings and the bonnet – for the 3rd time.  The first time I did them they came out dry and dusty (wrong gun setting), The second time, I laid a very thin sheet of plastic over them a day after they were painted – to keep the dust off.  Unfortunately they were still in the process of drying and the plastic sheet melted itself into the paint and made a right royal mess of it.  Third time lucky – this is what they look like now

Rear doors  – painted and looking ok.  The lower edge of each is a bit shabby but they are not too bad overall and will do until such time as I can replace them

Vent flap – I sprayed far too much paint on this, which left it looking very wrinkly.  This was after I’d already painted it and then dropped it on the gritty workshop floor in my haste to put it somewhere safe while the paint dried properly.  It wrinkled mostly in the dimples where the inner and outer panels are spot welded together, so I have flattened it off with some 800 grit wet and dry paper,  ready to be painted again.  I’ll do this along with the driver and passenger doors, both of which need quite a bit of work before they will be ready for paint.  

Chassis and running gear – Whilst literally waiting for the paint to dry, I’ve started the thankless job of cleaning up the engine, gearbox and chassis parts.  As with the rest of the van, these have all been attended to in the previous restoration, so cleaning and repainting where necessary seems to be the way to go.  I’ve toyed with the idea of using a pressure washer to get the dirt and grease off but I don’t want to get water into places where it should not go (ie electrics mainly), so I’ve resorted to using a bucket load of isopropyl alcohol wipes.   The wipes work ok on dust and light grease but are not so good for shifting the really grimy stuff.  I’m going to try with some ‘Gunk’ on the really greasy bits, but instead of using a pressure washer to rinse off the Gunk, I’ll use a wallpaper steam stripper (without the ‘pad’ at the end of the hose) and see if it will work as a makeshift ‘steam cleaner’ – more on this later if it’s a success.  If it doesn’t work as anticipated I’ll try the jet wash.  The other problem with using a jet wash is that  there is no water in the workshop, so I’ll have to hook it up to a container, which will need to be elevated at least a couple of metres above ground level, otherwise there will be no water pressure and the jet wash won’t work.  First world problems…

Bits and Pieces

Just a short update from the workshop as I haven’t spent much time on the van for the last couple of weeks. I did have a bit of a tidy up, which mostly consisted of putting tools away and sifting through the dozens of plastic bags which comprise most of the vans entrails. Anyone who works in IT and databases will recognise this as having reduced a load of stuff to third normal form, now you need to create rows and tuples to store them. I have bags of nuts, bolts, bits of plastic and components which came off together and are organised – well labelled at least with names such as Wiper stuff, Rusty Flap fittings, Speedo, Misc… you get the idea.

Still, it feels like I have turned a corner with the work on the van by getting the shell finished off in top coat – ok, it’s not perfect but it is much better than it was when I started.  I still have reservations, for example, whether the driver and passenger doors will fit their respective apertures, will I be able to get the wiring loom back together given that all the careful labelling I did has long since faded away or dropped off altogether, plus a host of other small anxieties that keep popping into my head.  Of these, the electrics are a real concern. It seems like I have a number of spare wires, some have connectors on, others do not. There are 2 wires which come out of the engine. One of these goes to the coil and the other has not obvious home – the other wire from the coil disappears into the loom and (I think) reappears at the ignition switch end at the other end. To add to the confusion, lots of new bits of wire have been added to the loom, crimped on with those horrible blue plastic connectors which look like they have been left on a railway line and run over by a train.

Nothing to see here… WTF?

Anyway, there are other things I can sort out before I tackle the wiring rats nest, such as the rest of the panels which need to be painted.

Rear doors – these are in a friable state to say the least.  The bottom inch or so has suffered from rust and previous repairs, which although valiant have not stood up well to years of UK weather.   I’d like to repair them properly but repair sections are not available and I don’t have the tools to make my own.  So, it will be a bit of welding and filler work so that I can put them back on while I look around for some replacements.  Rear doors are available for the AK400 (large ripple, square window) and the AK250 (small ripple but oval window) but not the AK350 which has small ripple steel and a square window.  If they were available new, they would not be  cheap and are as rare as hens teeth second hand.  If you are reading this and you have a spare pair of rear doors for an AK350, drop me a line.

Bonnet – I painted the inside of the bonnet – just for completeness really,  as most of the underside will be covered by the soundproofing.  Soundproofing which looks like a bit of old carpet underfelt and probably does nothing to dampen any noise, but will be re-instated. The bonnet had previously been brush painted silver, so was just flattened off with some 250 grit wet and dry before painting with top coat.  You can see a bobbly bit where the battery sits close to the underside of the bonnet.  This looked like black tar and has been part of the bonnet for a long time.  I wonder if it’s a factory finish – put on to protect the paint from battery fumes? Someone may know…

The bobbly bit in all it’s crusty glory
A more flattering angle of the beasts underbelly

Vent flap – aka ‘the rusty flap’.  I don’t have a ‘before’ picture but after stripping off the many layers of household and silver paint, I found some evidence of Bleu Neve, so it could be that this is the original 1966 panel.  It’s certainly well made and no-where near as corroded as I though it would be.  A dose of phosphoric acid, and a coat of etch primer will see it last a good few more years hopefully.  I will have to make a small repair to one end of the strip which holds the captive screws as the one at the end has sheered off but the rest is sound. Oh – I and can confirm that paint stripper can be used to remove paint from the rubber seal as well.  Why people don’t use masking tape is beyond me.

Rear door check straps – I stripped off the paint from these by leaving them in the plastic bag with paint stripper in it.  I’m going to leave them bare metal as there is still enough zinc plating on them to prevent them going rusty and they just won’t look right if I paint them.

I’ll have to paint the upper wing to bonnet panels again because of the poor paint finish and water issues I had in the last painting frenzy.  I’m still in two minds about giving the body another going over.  I have lots of paint but there’s every chance that I’ll have some other paint related problem and could just end up making it look worse.  I guess at some point I’m just going to have to walk away and accept it for what it is.

Chassis and other bits.  The lamp bar is ok, but has many wires cable tied to the outside of it as well as those that are neatly tucked away inside.  I’m not sure what all the extra wires as for but I found at least one which just runs from one headlamp shell to the other on the earth point of each.  Quite why it is there is a mystery. I will remove it when I take off the lamp bar for stripping and painting.

Front bumper – I spend a good hour or so removing the bumper, quite why it took so long is a mystery – I might have had a brain shut down part way through or perhaps I just fell asleep. Anyway- although badly pitted in places, looks as if it can be rescued. The over-riders are good, the rubber strip is in a sorry state but I think I’ll just tidy it up by sanding it down with some fine wet and dry paper. The main bumper bar will get the full angle grinder wire brush treatment on all sides, etch, primer and paint. The bumper, lamp bar and wheels are all currently painted silver but AC140 Gris Rose is, I believe the correct colour. I think I prefer silver, so there will be some procrastination before I make a decision.

The chassis will need some attention.  It is thankfully very sound with just a little surface rust on the top sheet of steel.  Because this bit is visible when the body is put back in place, I want to get a durable and reasonable finish on it.  I expect these two requirements are mutually exclusive, so there will be more dithering over what products to use and how best to apply them.  Brush paint or spray?  Chassis paint or something similar to what I’m using on the body?   

Wheels – two are damaged, one badly and probably beyond repair, the other has a kink in the rim, which I might be able to sort out with the hammer and dolly.  All the wheels will need sanding down before I can repaint them.  So, I’ll have to buy one new wheel, perhaps two.    They come ready finished in Gris Rose, so perhaps I’ll paint the other 3 or 4 the same colour, or I could get 4 new wheels, have 3 spares and scrap the damaged pair – what to do…?

The paint goes on…

Another weeks worth of hard graft in the workshop, tidying up all the bare metalwork ready for painting. There were so many little bits of the old paint left on the shell, hiding in the dents and rust scabs which took ages to sort out, bits of welding to finish off – things I’d forgotten to do and things I just thought I’d not do on the assumption that nobody would notice or care about – except perhaps me.

I did manage to get the wings, headlamp pods, petrol tank, spare wheel cover and inside the rear doors painted in top coat, plus the underside of the shell, which despite having made an earlier declaration that I wasn’t going to bother doing it, I did anyway. This all went very well and cheered me up no end.

2 coats of top coat

I primed all these panels first and then spent a good couple of hours running some seal sealer around where the inner and outer wings are joined together and any other bits that looked like they might be susceptible to water creeping in between the numerous spot welded panels. Seam sealer is wonderful stuff (I used UPol Tiger Seal) as it’s overpaintable and does exactly what it says on the tube. What it doesn’t say on the tube is that you get one shot at using it because if you don’t do what you need to do in one hit and try and use the tube the next day, it will have set solid overnight and no amount of poking and squeezing will release anything useful thereafter.

So – back to those little jobs I’d been putting off. Below is the windscreen repair panel with the strange slot cut into it. I’ve no idea why it is like this, perhaps it’s to allow braze to run under where it joins the A panel. I just zipped it up with with a few careful dabs with the mig welder and used a smear of filler to make good the join. And – there’s a little tab which I was going to cut off but decided in the end to fold it over the firewall join.

Note the crease at the top of the ‘repair’ panel – a poor quality pressing

I noticed a small hole in the gutter than runs down the side of the A post – after a bit of poking about with the wire brush, I ended up with a very large hole…

I also had to make a new piece of drip channel to replace a rusted out section

I fitted both rear wings on using bolts. I know I said I’d weld these on in an earlier post but with them bolted along all 3 edges, if I need to get underneath for maintenance, I can easily take them off. I pretty sure I’ll never need to take them off but perhaps someone will in feel the need to do so in 10 or 15 years time when the van undergoes its third restoration – who knows.

I had to close off the end of the rail on both sides as well. A small square of new steel was but and welded in – not ‘after’ pictures yet

I also realised that I’d need to close off the front end of the ‘top hat’ side rail below, but not until after I’d applied the primer, which was annoying

tricky bit of welding…

Looking closely at the van bodywork, none of it is going to win any shows but at least it’s honest, it’s a bit of a cop out really because I could spend another 6 months perfecting every little blemish and fault – and then where would I be? I’d be happy, however polishing this particular turd would never have be the right thing to do. It’s a 53 year old van and it needs a few battle scars. I can’t create patina – the best I can do is what I’ve done and roll in it a bit of glitter.

So – on with the top coat. This didn’t go quite as well as I hoped. My paint gun got gummed up and the spray pattern went haywire, I had water droplets spattering over the roof and the paint came out drier than I wanted. But – it doesn’t look too bad and when it’s fully hardened off in a few weeks time, I will probably flatten it off and shoot another coat on it.

Next steps? I need to paint the bonnet (Inside and outside), paint the inside of the rear of the body, sort out the driver and passenger doors and then paint them (which will be a mission), fit the rear doors, paint the chassis, pop the body back on and start re-assembly. Lots more to do. hmm….

Visions in Blue

Bleu Neve – French Navy Blue

Keen to find out more about the French and their shades of blue, I pinched this from a decorating website:

‘This is a beautiful smokey, grey blue. It is the colour I associate with the cloth used for the uniforms of French infantrymen in the 19th century. It would have been based on indigo the highly prized organic dye. It has a good tonality – rich and warm – a great foil for lighter colours used with it and a good compliment for stone and marble surfaces.’

Right – so I’ll need to line the inside of my van with marble or stone in order to complete the look.  Good job I have that spare engine…

Cheered on by this, I sprayed the undersides of the floors and toe board with the top coat of Bleu Neve (AC-609).  It is indeed a lovely grey blue and I’m guessing that the French Navy blue is a take on battleship grey that we Brits use to paint our old tractors, school corridors, prisons and of course our ships.

I seam sealed the joins with some Upol Tiger Seal before painting on the top coat, hopefully it will stop moisture creating in between the joins and rusting the metal.

Nonetheless, I am really pleased with the result, especially the semi gloss finish which looks about right for the period look I’m aiming for.  By time I’m done the van will look like it was either a rush job at the factory or that it has been repainted by an enthusiastic amateur (which it has) – as opposed to a professional paint job.   ‘It’s all in the preparation’ they say, but it’s also very easy to get carried away when laying on the paint –  thinking that a bit more of a squirt here will just cover that blemish – or as inevitably happens, it will turn into a run.  Spraying the rest of the van (and by this, I mean the bits that will be on show) will test my mettle to the full.  I’m sure that this is going to be the hardest bit of the whole restoration and I can understand why resprays are so expensive.  It takes forever to get a car ready to paint, no time at all to actually put the paint on and plenty of time to look back and wish you’d spent more time on the preparation.   


An odd reaction has taken place where I overpainted the silver Hammerite that I brush painted onto the underside of the body,  in that the new paint has fisheyed, just before it flashed off fully – a bit like what happens when you try and paint over silicone polish or sealant.  This is probably due to the Hammerite not being fully cured – I seem to remember being caught out by this before when  spaying a moped with a new coat of Hammerite over an old coat, which had been left too long to overpaint (ie more than an hour or so) but not long enough for it to have properly dried out (a week or two).  It’s not really a problem, but it is something I need to watch out for when I paint the inside of the van, which already has a liberal coat of some sort of silver paint applied to it with a brush.  My plan is to flatten this off as best as I can, and try a few test areas with and without primer, so that I can see how it reacts – and then decide how to deal with it. 

I think I’ll paint the inside before I do the outside – it might not get much more than a dusting, except for the new metal areas (floors, sills, toeboard, bulkhead and inner screen panels, which I will do properly, but at least this way I won’t be risking getting overspray on the outside.  I’ll paint the inside and then mask off the windows and door apertures – and then have a go at the outside.  I’ve already primed the inner side of the rear wings, headlight bowls, petrol tank and spare wheel covers.  These will also be top coated on the inside and then fitted, ready for the big paintathon. 

Here are a few tips for mixing and applying paint:

The data sheet that your friendly paint supplier gave you when you bought the product, will give you the mixing ratio for paint to thinner, the flash off time between coats and some other useful pre-requisites, such as safety precautions, so that you don’t end up poisoning yourself when spraying the stuff about.  The good news is that the paint I have is not horribly toxic (no isocyanates), I have a good quality mask and as I don’t spray paint for a living, the risks to health are minimal and therefore I have deemed it acceptable.  Also, with the body shell on its new mobile table, I can place as good as outside the workshop by the roller shutter, so I won’t be filling up the whole workshop with paint mist. 

Also, by using a High Volume, Low Pressure (HVLP) spay gun and a weedy little compressor, I won’t be atomising the stuff too much.  This type of spay gun is gravity fed as opposed to the old school type which sucks the paint up from the pot. You need less pressure with a HVLP gun but you do need a reasonable volume of air from your compressor to create the correct spray pattern fan out of the gun. Too much air and the paint will dry before it settles, too little air and it will spatter out in blobs and drips. 

It’s important to keep a wet edge (not a euphemism) when spraying – this is to allow the paint in pass you are making to blend it seamlessly with the stuff that has already been laid down before it dries or starts to flash off.  This is all very well, except that there’s a huge expanse of roof to cover and I’ll have to get around both sides of the van, whilst maintaining the wet edge.  There’s only one of me, so this will be a challenge.

Anyway – back to the data sheets.  On the primer and top coat datasheet the ratios for mixing are 10-15% thinner by volume or weight to paint.  This all sounds a bit vague to me.  Paint has solids in it and therefore weighs more than the thinner, so the volume method would be out by some margin.   I decided to go with the weight ratio and chose a number in between – 12% by weight of thinner to paint.  This is easily achieved by using a set of cheap electronic scales and some plastic 3/4 litre cups.  Place your cup on the scale, zero the weight, add 500 grams of paint and 60 grams of thinner, mix, pour into the paint gun and apply..

Even when thinned, the paint is still quite viscous, much more so than the 50:50 mix I’ve used in the past when spraying cellulose or the etch primer that I’ll use first over the bare metal.   Having said all of that, I don’t think it matters that much – as long as there is enough thinner in the paint to make it flash off and dry in a reasonable timeframe then all should be well.

This is the bit that holds the pedal hanger box in place, where the master brake cylinder passes through.  It was painted a few days ago and still smells of wet paint and is still soft enough to mark with a fingernail.  I guess the paint will take a few weeks to harden off fully and in the meantime I will need to be careful moving stuff around so that I don’t damage it.  I’m pretty sure I will make many marks and scratches when I put the jigsaw back together, so expect a ‘paint repair’ feature sometime in the near future.  

This picture is a better representation of the colour – more blue, less grey than the other shots

I’ll close with a quick update from the Thursday pub night  –  aka The Old Man’s Memory club. 

Our local has been upgraded in that it now has a band playing in the spot where we usually sit. This is inconvenient as (a) we’re much older than both the band and their audience – we are the same age as their grandparents, so they will tolerate and pity us and (b) We can’t hear ourselves think.  We moved to another pub which was a relief but it didn’t sell old man’s ale so we had to drink craft lager instead.

To cap it all, we were only three and therefore not quorate.  Pete F is on holiday in Greece, having first spent a few days soaking up some culture in Venice.  We took advantage of his absence by pondering how long it will be before he starts on his project car – a Gilbern Invader.  Bets have not been placed as it we all know it would be rude to do so.  Also it will be so far into the future that none of us will be around to collect, so we just agreed that it would be later…sometime..

Pete R (Fishy) has now lost 2 stone in weight.  A milestone for him and 

we congratulated him on his achievement.  

Lastly, Steve had an update from Chris. ‘He’s not coming out tonight but says hello’.  

We’ve all been on a Summer Holiday

As the title suggests, I’m back from my holiday in Crete with renewed enthusiasm to get on with the work on the van.  Starting with what has now become a ritual sweep and tidy up in the workshop, I tackled a few of the smaller jobs on the ever growing list of things to do. Quite why the list is growing and not shrinking must be down to poor planning on my part or it’s someone else’s fault.

I screwed some wheels onto the table that I’ve been using to store the body on while it’s off the chassis.  I only wish I’d done it sooner because now that it’s mobile, I can wheel the table with body and all,  around the workshop and work on different parts of it without having to move a million things out of the way first.  To celebrate this new found freedom,  I wheeled the table + body combo to the shutter door of the workshop, so it was as good as outside in the open air and then etch primed both sides of the new rear wings, petrol tank and spare wheel covers and the underside of the floors and toe board.    Due to a problem with the workshop compressor, which became apparent when the motor just kept running and running and running… until the tank safety valve blew off with an almighty bang, whoosh and hissing noise, I  had to use my small compressor and an equally small HVLP (high volume, low pressure) paint gun, which had about as much oomph as a rattle can and only holds about a wine glass full of paint, so took ages.  At least the overspray was minimal and I didn’t fill up the whole workshop with paint fumes, which was nice..  If the workshop compressor is toast, I’ll have to think about procuring another one from somewhere. My tiny 2hp 25 litre ‘Aldi’ special is not going to be able to pump enough air for me to be able to paint the whole van.

While I had the van on its side , I finished brush  painting the rest of the underside with Hammerite.   Short of stripping the underneath of what looks like a few coats of POR 15 and god know what else, I concluded that  Hammerite over the top of it what is already there is the only viable option.  I don’t think it will do any harm and it will tidy up most of which will remain unseen when the body is back on the chassis.

Here’s a picture of the underneath.  The greeny coloured paint on the floors is the new etch primer.  It’s acid based and will have bitten right into the steel, which will be a good base for the proper (grey) epoxy primer coat which will be next to go on. 

Other small but equally satisfying jobs:

I fitted the new drip channel to the back of the van (above the rear doors).  This was just a case of punching a series of holes in the new channel, clamping and plug welding it to the body.  I’ve ground off the excess weld and it looks pretty tidy now.  I’ll put a smear or filler – or body sealer over any small holes, before painting.  It’s both surprising and disconcerting how much more solid the panel is now with the addition of this small strip of new steel.

I did sort of measure this before it was clamped and welded – I don’t suppose anyone will notice if it’s a few ml out though

Plug welds ground down – not too bad!

I also made a proper (round) patch for the ‘spare’ ventilation hole in the bulkhead by cutting out a circle of sheet steel and carefully tack welding it into place at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions, then I filled in the gaps with small tacks and ground off the welds flush with the rest of the bulkhead.  Most of it will be covered up with the master cylinder bracket but filling the hole in properly means that I won’t have a permanent draught of cold air blowing onto my feet from the engine bay.  

I’ll need fit another heater nozzle into the bulkhead on the drivers side as the original was sacrificed when the van was converted from the chassis mounted pedal arrangement to the more modern pedal hanger arrangement.   It’s a shame that I had to block the hole off as I now need to cut another one the same size next to it –  without the new hole I will have no heating on the drivers side footwell and my feet will get cold. I’m also going to need to fit  a second heater nozzle to the new hole in the bulkhead so that the hot air can flow into the cab – does anyone have one spare?

I marked up and drilled some holes in the rear valence panel under the back doors, so that I could retro-fit the second hand bumpers (which were sent from France by a very nice chap who has been following this blog) into what must have been a previous repair panel for a different van (an Acadianne) – I say this because there are no holes in the replacement panel and the word ‘Acadianne’ was written on it, under the paint.  Anyway, the plan was to drill the holes, weld a nut to each of the ends of the bumpers and bolt both of them to the rear of the box section that they slot into.  Sounded easy enough and actually worked out ok. Here are few pictures

This is the rear valance – just below the rear doors. I drilled pilot holes first

Then some bigger holes, you can just see on the left, the smaller hole drilled into the back of the box section.
Nut welded onto the end of the bumper tube
and there we are – cleaned up and bolted to the valence

Having fitted the bumper, I mixed up and sprayed some of the ‘Fast’ epoxy primer onto the floors and toe board. This went on really well. I still have to close off where the front of the sills join the toe board – I realised that after I’d painted it… so out with the welder again and re-prime again. I’m going to fold over the bottom edge of the A-panels so that there’s not gap where they meet the sills – something I also should have done before the primer went on.


While on holiday in Crete, I spotted a 2CV engine on eBay, close to where I live in Norfolk and decided that even though my van engine is ok, it would do no harm to have a spare.  I can strip it down over the winter, rebuild it and get it ready to fit as and when I need it.  So I bought it.  When I picked it up, the seller also had a decent bonnet with a good hinge and a few dents and a headlight bar, complete with steel light pods.  I thought the headlight bar would be easier to clean up than the one on my van, which has numerous coats of paint on it, but my van is left hand drive and the fittings are different. Never mind, one of my headlight shells has rotted out at the bottom and the ones on the new bar are in perfect condition, so all in all it has worked out well.  I’m not sure if I’ll use the bonnet – yet.  The engine is complete with carburettor (twin choke) and alternator.  It turns over, has clean oil in it and I was assured that it was a runner before it was removed. Perhaps the engine stripdown and re-assembly will feature in a future blog. I might remove and re-paint the tinware and then transfer this to the engine in my van – we will see.

For a few minutes, I thought about fitting both engines to the chassis and making a 4×4 ‘Sahara Van’ – then I realised that this would be a whole new world of pain that I can do well without.  Just imagine how hard it would be to get 2 loosely connected engines to work in synch with each other.  I think there would be a continual battle between them as to which one was doing most of the work – one engine would dominate while the other engine would sulk and just be there for the ride, literally idling along…  It’s a bad idea and the stuff of nightmares.  The only realistic outcome would be that I’d still be writing this blog in 5 years time and the project would still be unfinished.

So – what’s left to do?  I’ve broken the rest of the work down into 3 tranches

Finish the bodywork – 16 hours

Really this should be called  ‘finishing off the tricky bits’.  With the new panels all fitted there are a few small jobs that need a bit more care and attention than I was prepared to put in at a time when there were much more rewarding things to do.  For example, having got the screen repair panel in place, I now need to tidy up the join where it meets the A-panel and because it would be all to easy to make a real pigs ear of it, I’ve been putting it off. 

There’s a split in the flange which will need to be joined up, the flange will need to have a bit trimmed off it, so that it sits just above the recess in the A-panel and there’s an odd bit of metal that needs to be folded over the firewall and then joined to it.   I’m not convinced this is all possible with the MIG welder and I might have to braze it or use some lead solder to make it good..  Neither of which I have any expertise in.

Paint the shell and panels – 25 hours

None of this can happen until all the body repairs have been completed

Paint the chassis and put it all back together again – 36 hours


Of course, all of these estimates will prove to be hopelessly inaccurate – experience has shown that each job takes longer than it should do, because:

  • something as yet undiscovered will become apparent and will throw me off track
  • a vital tool needs to be procured – which will immediately take on the status of ‘lost’ as soon as it is brought into the workshop
  • someone will wander into the workshop for a chat and all planned work for that session will be abandoned
  • painting will be a disaster – I have a recurring anxiety dream in which I stand back to admire my work and watch while all the new paint slides off the van and ends up in a pool on the floor before it has had a chance to dry.