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.

‘He wants to paint me naked!’

There are no words to describe what a ball ache of a job stripping a car back to bare metal is. If you don’t have to do it, don’t is my advice. I had no choice – it would have taken an age to flatten off the 2 brush painted coats of paint and would also have to run the risk of new paint reacting with the old mixture of factory paint, household gloss, silver paint and unknown primer and old seam sealer.

It’s a fact that each bit of the van that I strip reacts differently to the paint stripping process.  Here’s an example below:

A messy business is paint stripping – not something I want to do again any time soon

You can see that the door on the left has hardly been affected by the paint stripper – or so it would seem, except for some patches where all layers of paint have peeled off back to the bare steel.  The door on the right has shed it’s outer coat of the household eggshell paint as a single layer.  Unaffected is the (I guess) original coat of factory red – bar a few places where the stripper has managed to bite through and lift this off as well.

Both doors had the same product applied, were wrapped in cling film and left to sulk for 24 hours.  The door on the left had all but dried out under the cling film, whilst on the right, the peeled off paint was still wet with stripper.  OK, so under the top coat of paint, they are different – I think the door on the left has fewer coats of paint – perhaps only one coat of silver over some primer and then it’s bare steel, so maybe this is why they respond differently to the stripper?

It’s a mystery that I’m never going to understand – and to be brutally honest I don’t really care why it happens, I just know it does. 

I wrapped them up in some more stripper and cling firm and left them overnight, after which most of the paint scraped off without too much fuss – except for a few recalcitrant patches which had to have another application of stripper. This seems to be a feature of working on this van. I do 90% of a job in a reasonable time and the remaining 10% takes forever and is a real pain.

With the shell and nearly all of the panels stripped, I thought it was about time to fit the rear wings. Once again the previous shunt the van had in the rear right hand corner is causing me issues. With the petrol tank cover in place and the wing clamped in, the rear edge of the wing which should be folded over the rear door pillar is about 5ml longer than where it should be. What to do? I can’t really see that cutting the wing and putting a new fold in it is going to work – it’s a tricky job and realistically is beyond what I can do without a proper metal press brake / folder. I could put a jack against something solid on the front of the shell and push to back a bit, but I can’t see that the bottom of the door pillar will move anywhere. It’s welded to the rear box section at the base and at the top is welded to the rear of the shell, but it’s he only viable option. More on this later, I might just have to make do and mend, If I can do a reasonable job, I’ll post pictures of the repair, or it will be problematic – in which case I’ll skip over writing it up and distract you with something else..

The other repair I need to do is to replace the drip rail (gutter) just above the rear doors. Chopping the old gutter was going to be tricky. It’s held on with dozens of spot welds and the metal underneath is badly corroded. In the end I just peeled it off with a pair of pliers – a bit like opening a can of corned beef, winding the old strip of metal around the pliers and popping off the spot welds one at a time.

Brutal but effective..

It’s cleaned up ok, so I should be able to plug weld the new panel onto the old spot welds but this it will need a good dose of seam sealer to keep the water out – hopefully it will keep the rust a bay for few more years. We will see.

All of this bare metal is a concern. It’s dry in the workshop – mostly, but there’s lot of humidity in the air which is causing the steel to flash rust just as soon as it’s exposed. ‘Thas roite hoomid’ as they say in Norfolk. All I can do is give the bare metal a wipe over with some phosphoric acid, this should keep the rust in check while I get the rest of the shell ready for painting.

Lastly, a couple of people wandered into the hack space part of the workshop for a look around, so I press-ganged them into helping me flip the shell up on end so that I can paint the underside. They obliged and left with a bemused look on their faces. ‘What was it?’ one of them asked – I think that just about sums it up.

no too shabby, but a fresh coat of paint will keep the rust at bay for a little longer

Ready for lift off! – acres of metal to rub down

I’ve still got many, many hours of rubbing down with emery paper to do, so I’ll get on with it, therefore there will be no blog updates for a few weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to try and rent a paint booth and then figure out how to move the shell and all its component panels to the place where the spraying will take place. There’s a place about 15 miles from the workshop which will rent me their paint booth facility for a day, so I’m going to need a trailer – or a big van to put my van in. I’m away on holiday for a couple of weeks in July so painting looks like it will be a job for mid or late August.

Wings – Just listen to what the man said

I’ve had a long tedious day driving up North – to Stafford. Actually it’s not really North from Norfolk, it more like West, North a bit and then a bit more west. I probably should have titled this post ‘Go West’ but try as I might, I just couldn’t weave in the new front wings I’ve just added to the list of new bits I’ve bought with a reference to the Pet Shop Boys. Perhaps someone could help me out of this lyrical impasse?

Anyway – the epic road trip, started off because I had to collect my daughter, Rose from Sheffield and as I’d tracked down some new front wings (sans indicator holes) at ECAS (who are in Stafford) I thought I’d combine the 2 trips into one. Sheffield is not too far from Stafford. I arrived at this conclusion by looking at a map of the UK and figured it would take about an hour or so extra to swing by Stafford on the way to Sheffield. It probably would only take an hour if I had an aeroplane or could drive over the Pennines at 90 miles per hours in the trusty Volvo-saurus….

The wings. The eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted that that my van has front indicators fitted. I had these put on when I bought the van – in the interests of safety, as I reckoned that no-one would see the lone 2 indicators mounted at the rear on the sides of the van body when viewed from the front. Actually this is less of a problem than I thought, as most other motorists are shocked and surprised to see such an old jalopy on the road, which looks like a Citroen 2cv (unusual) to which someone has backed into a garden shed (downright weird) – so they tend to give way regardless of what the indictors are indicating. I therefore don’t need front indicators, they weren’t fitted when the van was built in 1966, so I’m going to re-fit the correct period wings.

I picked up the new wings from ECAS in Stafford, plus a few other essential bits and bobs – and a few parts for Brian – a nice chap who has a very nice 2cv Dolly and swings by the workshop now and again to see how I’m getting on. With all of my stuff and his few bits in the back of the Volvo, there was not going to be a lot of room left for Rose’s accumulated University flotsam and jetsam. Mostly shoes and clothes, some houseplants, some pots and pans, books, a printer, a large suitcase (more shoes?) and ten or so Ikea bags of clothes and bedding, plus a few groceries. It took me 2 hours to drive across the Pennines in the driving rain to Sheffield from Stafford, where we stuffed everything in and headed back to Norwich. Like I said, it was a bit of a mission. I left at 7am and got back to Norwich at about 6pm.

Here’s one of the old wings. It’s really floppy compared with the new panels and as well as being dented and rusty, it has started to spit along the outside edge. I probably could salvage it, but just don’t have the time. Also it has had so many repairs on the inner wing and trailing edge that I think it’s time it went into the skip.

Wafer thin, crusty and split. Tricky to repair

I cleaned up the back of the van, so it’s mostly back to bare metal now and I spent a couple of hours stripping and cleaning the spare wheel panel and petrol tank cover. The tank cover is heavily corroded but still sound, so I think I’ll persevere with it. There are a couple of small holes in the spare wheel cover, which I will repair, but the rest of it is all good steel.

Petrol tank cover – it’s seen better days but there are no holes in it – apart from the one into which one pours petrol, which is supposed to be there
I quite like the hand painted number plate but I think it will have to be stripped back. The black factory primer which coated the rear door pillars came off really easily.

Back to the front wings – ‘Make sure you trial fit them before painting them’ was the parting shot from Roy at ECAS. ‘They are pattern parts, so you might need to adjust the mounting points to get them to fit properly’. Right – so having just removed the body from the chassis for the second time, I’m going to have to put it back together again so that I can fit the wings and make sure that the holes line up with the captive bolts which are welded to the front of the chassis, the sills and the firewall. Brilliant.

‘What are pattern parts?’ – well, these are parts made by manufacturers other than Citroen, using non Citroen tooling. I could buy Citroen tooled wings, but they are £350 each as opposed to £110 for the pattern parts. This is sizeable chunk of extra cash is more than I can afford to lavish on the van, so fettling and fiddling is what I will have to do.

I won’t be fitting the wings for a while as I have ton of other jobs to do beforehand. In the meantime, here’s a quick update from the weekly gathering at the pub (aka the Old Mans Memory Club) last Thursday:

Pete R has lost some weight since he joined the Fat Club, although he did put on a few pounds last week, overall he’s still down so won’t incur the full wrath of the pack leader.

Pete F (the other Pete) has had his peace shattered by the arrival of his daughter and 2 young children, who are residing with him temporarily. I expect this will result in him spending more time at the workshop with me – which is a good thing.

Steve has gout, which despite it’s music hall comedy value, thereby providing a rich seam of Henry V111 related jokes for us to tease him with, is very painful and stopping him from even thinking about starting on any of his car/motorcycle projects, so we all wish him a speedy recovery.

Chris said he was going to turn up this week but didn’t. To be honest, no-one noticed which will amuse him greatly when we tell him (if he ever shows up).

Don’t give up, I know you can make it good

Anyone reading this blog will understand what a mission it is to successfully tackle bodywork on the 2cv. Being a gung-ho sort of chap, I weighed in with my size 10 boots and with hindsight took on much more than I was initially capable of. Notwithstanding I don’t think anyone should be put off from at least having a go. Bodywork is difficult but it’s also expensive to have done at a bodyshop and goes a long way to explain why a car respray costs so much money.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from others and have discovered though trial and error.

Rust – your 2cv will be rusty. If you are lucky, you’ll be able to see it, which might sound perverse but as you are only the latest in probably a long line of previous owners, all sorts of shenanigans may have gone on before: covering up previous rust spots with expertly applied filler, pop riveted patches, aluminium backed foil tape, expanding foam, baked bean cans glued on with Araldite (Justin knows all about this…) – and all hidden under a nice shiny looking coat of paint or a thick coating of underseal. The worst offenders are those cars which have just been re-sprayed, so unless you look very hard for the very shallow dimples left by the original factory spot welder, lack of tell tale pinholes indicating the presence of the dreaded filler and check that there are still seams where some of the panels overlay each other, you can expect the worse. A good example is that if you see a line of rust between the floors and the toe board, the chances are that the dreaded rust has already taken hold and has eaten away at this double skinned panel from the inside. OK – it’s not all doom and gloom but don’t be fooled into thinking I’ll just tidy up that bit and the rest will be fine. This is what I thought when I started.

It is impossible to weld rust – I know this because I’ve tried, so don’t attempt to weld a nice new shiny bit of steel or a new repair panel that you’ve bought (or made) to an existing part of the car which is rusty. The best you can hope for is that some of the weld will stick for a short time to the rust and then pop apart again, but most of the time all the rusty stuff will just burn away. Sparks and spatters of hot metal will be the result. Your mig welding torch will cut through rusty metal like a hot knife through butter. You must keep cutting back until you get to sound metal before you start to weld. Then what you will then find is that your nice new repair panel is too small to fit into the hole it’s meant to occupy. – if this happens, see ‘new panels’ below

New panels – even of your budget is tight, it is much more economical in the end to replace 2 or 3 panels instead of just one. It will be easier to weld new panels together, they will fit better and – if you have chopped back to good metal, you will have something sound to weld them to. There’s some very good advice regarding repair panels on the parts suppliers websites (eg ECAS) – better still, ring them up and have a chat with them. They are not in the business of selling you something you don’t need but they do know, for example, that if you ask for a floor repair panel, the odds are that the toe board will also be shot and will also need to be replaced. They will tell you this – send them pictures of your rusty bits and take their advice.

Plug welding – this is is your friend. 2cv’s were largely spot welded at the factory. There are very few, if any factory made seam welds on a 2cv – and most of what looks like a seam weld is probably brazed or just been filled with seam sealer. Unless you can afford £600 to buy a spot welder or can borrow one for your restoration, treat yourself to a joddler / hole punch tool (about £50 will get you a good one) and where you need to replicate a spot weld, punch a hole in the top panel, clamp it up and hit the area with the mig welder. Work from the edge of the hole in the top panel, towards the middle until you have build up a small, round mound of weld pool. You’re aiming to melt the weld pool into the bottom piece of steel, penetrating this enough to get the weld to melt into the steel and at the same time melt into the edges around the hole in the top panel.

Seam Welding – very, very, very difficult on the ultra thin metal that your 2cv is made out of, unless you can turn your welder right down to 35 amps and you are using 0.6ml welding wire. Even then it’s easy to get carried away and run a nice bead of weld, only to find your panels have gone banana shaped because you have put too much heat into them. Seam weld only if you are capable of doing it in short sections and are willing to take the time to join up the short lengths when the work has cooled off.

Clamps – you can’t have too many clamps. I’m sure I’ve said this before. Get some small ‘C’ clamps – these have small jaws and are great for gripping together edges of panels where the flanges are small. Get some clamps with long nosed jaws – they are much better for getting into tight spaces. One or 2 large (1o inch) ‘C’ clamps will get you into awkward spaces – such as the inside of box sections. If you can’t clamp it, drill a hole through both bits of steel that you are planning to plug weld and use a pop rivet or self tapping screw to hold them in place, ready for welding. Drill out the pop rivets when you are done and fill the holes with a bit of weld, otherwise the MOT inspector will think you’ve pop riveted your car together and fail or condemn it – this will ruin your day. You must clamp panels together tightly (no gaps) before attempting to weld them together. If there are any gaps around the punched hole and the panel underneath then your plug weld will not work. You will either burn a hole through the bottom panel – or your nice new plug weld will pop apart overnight and you will have to unpick all your good work and start again. I use a small metal punch with a flat tip – about 3ml in diameter with a small hammer to tap the edges of the punched hole until they are butted up tight to the bottom panel. A squirt of weld through primer on the inside of both sides of the metal to be joined, prior to clamping them together, will help the weld to penetrate.

When things go wrong – if this happens when your are welding, walk away or do something else for a bit. It’s easy to keep piling on the weld in the belief that it will work in the end. It won’t and you’ll spend a huge amount of time grinding it all off again – only to find that your weld hasn’t welded at all. This will irritate you.

Get the right kit – purchase or borrow an ‘auto darkening’ mask and use a nice bright LED light to illuminate the work before you hit it with the MIG torch. You can’t start a weld in the dark and expect it to all come good when the arc is struck and you see the weld pool for the first time. The chances are you will have missed your target and will just deposit a nice new blob of weld in the wrong place which you will have to grind off again.

Flap disks – use these to tidy up your welds. 60 or 80 grit are fine. Turn your angle grinder down to speed 3 and work slowly and carefully. Grind the weld down until it is flush with the surrounding metal but no further. It’s all too easy to keep grinding down until it’s all nicely blended in and then to find out that the metal around your nice new weld is the now the same thickness as tinfoil and just about as strong as rice pudding skin.

Unpicking old panels apart – do this whenever you can. Get a spot weld drill bit kit – they cost about £30 and will save you hours of frustrating work with a hammer and cold chisel. Drilling out spot welds will cause minimum damage to any panels that you need to salvage. On my van, I drilled through with the spot weld bit until the metal swarf turned from shiny steel to a rusty colour – this indicates when you have hit the top of the panel under the spot weld. Stop here and use a pair of pliers / cold chisel and hammer to carefully prise the work apart. Clean up the old spot weld with the flap disk. When plug welding to a previously spot welded panel, try to line up your holes with the old spot welds. The steel here will be harder and thicker than the rest of the panel and your plug weld will be easier to make. I used masking tape to mark the spots and then transferred it to the panel that would be hole punched.

Brace it – get a few lengths of 1/2 inch box section steel from your local steel supplier. I bought 12 metres of it for about £10. Before you cut out any major panels, such as floors, sills or door posts, weld in a few lengths of box section across the A, B and C posts to brace the shell. This will stop it flopping about when you cut out the old metal and ensure that when you are done, the geometry will be the same as it was before you started. The box section only needs to be tacked into place and can easily be removed later. When welding in new floors and sills, do this when the body is bolted to the chassis, or make a jig to replicate the chassis. Drill holes in the jig that match where they are on the chassis and bolt the jig to the body before you start replacing these panels. If you don’t, your van or car won’t go back together again, the doors won’t fit and you will be deeply depressed as the realisation that you are going to have to start again slowly dawns on you…

Do one thing at a time – this works for me, I like to focus on one area of repair and finish it before I move on to the next. This way, you can leave the shed, garage or workshop after a few hours of work and feel like you’ve achieved something.

Tidy up – when you’ve finished a session in the workshop, sweep up all the bits of rust, beer cans and other detritus you’ve created during your task and again – it will feel like you’ve done more than you actually have. This will boost your morale and you’ll keep up a semblance of enthusiasm for your project. Losing the will to live part way through a restoration is not uncommon, there are so many ‘unfinished projects’ scattered all over the country, some end up on eBay, others are just scrapped. It might seem hard to keep at it sometimes but you must persevere if you are to stand any chance of finishing. I still have a long way to go and am at possibly the most tedious and yet critical stage which is preparation for paint, so I’m in the danger zone.

I’ll do a bit more of a write up about paint later.