Once the main strip down is complete work can start on the major structural repairs. I took a long time studying any source material I could find in an attempt to understand how the complex structure of inner and outer sills all fitted together. Main source being Barney Gaylords amazing website – mgaguru.com, which was the source of much inspiration throughout the restoration.
From my experience, if the front and rear wings require repair work or replacement (repair is always preferable as chances are they’ll fit better than pattern new), then it is a good idea to do this before embarking on structural repairs. The reason for this is that at every stage of rebuilding the body structure, the wings and doors are in constant use to ensure shut lines and panel gaps are correct. In my case I had major repairs done to all four wings, including blasting, cutting out and fitting new repair panels, hand beating of dents and lead loading.
The cost of this, was not a great deal more than the cost of one new pattern wing and I had the comfort of knowing that as they fitted when they came off, they would probably fit when put back on, which was the case. There are many stories of expensive new wings having to be seriously cut and reshaped to fit and even then, the profile of the wing is not the same as an original.
The next sequence of photos attempts to describe the process.
Despite the huge amount of information on MGA’s, there’s very little factual in terms of dimensional drawings to help restorers, particularly with the replacement of the ‘F’ post sections. This is from John Underwood of MG Car Club and published in Malcolm Green’s excellent MGA Restoration Guide. When checked against my cars remaining original side, the dimensions were almost identical. Also of constant reference for this aspect, was American Barney Gaylord’s extensive website that records in detail the fabrication and replacement of inner and outer sills, amongst details of several restorations. mgaguru.com.
At this stage, I tapped all the captive front and rear wing nuts, which makes it much easier doing up and undoing the bolts when trial fitting the wings. 5/16th UNF tap. Added after completing the righthand side – this has to be the best tip – if you are able to use the original captive nuts, this transforms the job of endless fitting and undoing of the wings when trying to get everything to fit.
A useful tool to obtain is a joddler, which has the primary function of forming a recessed edge to enable two sections of sheet metal to be joined together, avoiding a butt weld. It also doubles as a hole punch, enabling plug welds, which are easier for the less skilled and can also replicate a spot weld. This shows the tool with the head rotated to the joddler position. Both ends of the inner sill back plate were joddled to achieve a flush join when welded.
Finished joddled edge. Small holes are from various dry fittings using 3mm drill and PK screws
All repair panels were dismantled and metal primed, using either weld-thru, etch or zinc depending on area primed. Edges to be welded were prepared using joddler/punch. Holes were punched every few inches ready for plug welding. The joddler tool was not cheap but is a great asset.
First trial fix of rear wing – additional reshaping of inner wing repair panel required to allow bottom edge of wing to bolt up to captive nuts. Also alignment of wing to outer sill needed attention – note both wing repair section and outer sills from same supplier so a better fit should have been expected.
First dry fit with door mounted and both wings loosely fitted – not bad panel gaps, but still plenty of adjustment available to achieve decent gaps eventually. Benefit here of using original wings and doors.
This shows the fitting of the outer sill and attachment of chassis rail finishing strip, screwed up ready for welding top and bottom and pop-riveting the end flanges to the door pillars as per original spec. Outer sill inner surface by this stage has been zinc primed and two coats of black Hammerite applied. The hole in the right hand corner of the sill panel is the drain hole that will sit under the door draught seal rubber edge and acts to drain any trapped water. A corresponding hole in the top surface of the inner sill allows the water to drain into the sill void and out through gaps in the lower edge. Any excess moisture will evaporate in the void of the inner sill, the ends of which are not sealed. Seems counter intuitive, but apparently works – careful rust inhibiting preperation is required to the inside surfaces of the inner sill, to ensure longevity – not of concern to the Abingdon factory in 1959!
Another lesson I’ve learnt, is that when trial dry fitting the replacement panels and B post, is to check the fit with the door shut finishing plate in position and with the door catch fitted. The shut plate adds width and if the door catch is wrongly positioned, the door won’t shut.
The door hinges can have a dramatic influence on door fit. If using as I am the original hinges, it’s worth marking each one with where it was fitted, before dismantling. When fitted at the factory, they were another element that could be tweaked to achieve satisfactory panel fit. If I try to fit my hinges out of their original place, the door fit is wildly adrift. It could be easy to blame new structural work, when the hinges are the problem. Both of my top hinges have a pronounced forward bend, that pulls the top of the door into place, giving a good fit. if I swap top to bottom and vice verca, then it creates a massive gap. Another point to watch is that the shorter section of hinge is fitted to the A post and the longer section with the main lugs to the door – might seem obvious, but again it can have a big effect on door fit if incorrectly fitted.
These are new Moss hinges, that I’m unable to use as they push the door too far back due to lacking the bend that exists in the original hinges.
Nearside takes shape – easier, thanks to trials of fitting up offside.
This is the chassis mounting bracket for the B post backing/inner panel which is incorrectly located. The repair section is impossible to fit without removing the bracket, dry fitting the repair section and then sizing up the bracket against the panel, having bolted it to the chassis.
Illustration of final positioning of bracket, set against original position – must have a word with ‘Metal Mickey’ ! In fairness, all other panels from Sportscar Metalworks are a great fit, including the outer sills, which are known to be variable from other sources.
Additional welding required. Spoke to Mick at Stoneleigh Feb 2013 and he will supply the bracket loose with the panel in future.
Structure complete – Body removal
Car back on it’s wheels after final work on structural bodywork. Cockpit braced ready for removal of body. Some say this is unnecessary if inner and outer sills are in good shape, but I prefer belt and braces approach given the hours spent on trying to get it all right.
Once the body structure has been replaced (sounds easy) and the body has been braced, then it can be lifted off, which is a two man job. Next comes the problem of what to do with a large bodyshell, particularly when working in a small single workshop. Initially, its useful to have a pair of carpenters saw horses at hand to place the shell on, while a better solution is found. I searched the internet to find a mobile dolly plan and found many different types. I eventually devised my own based on some scrap timber I had lying around and a set of substantial casters.
Body lifted off easily, although the heater shelf to chassis cork gasket was apparently bonded on and gave the impression of having missed a retaining bolt. Once released it was a two man job to lift off and move to a pair of sawing horses for temporary storage.