Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Body Language

Body Language Published: 23rd Mar 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Body Language
Body Language
Body Language
Body Language
Body Language
Body Language
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

Only hard graft will make that body beautiful again

Old cars rust so the bodywork is going to be at the forefront of any worthwhile restoration. Without doubt, this area is the hardest thing to tackle at home although much of the work is simply hard graft such as removing trim, panels, cutting out old metal. Doing all the labouring yourself means you can save a lot of money by calling in any experts that may be required only when needed. How easy or hard a restoration becomes largely depends upon the availability of replacement body and chassis parts where, in the worst cases, you may need to make them from scratch…


This is a job that has to be done right

  • Replacing welded-on wings and sills, and inserting sections of steel into rusty panels are not exactly jobs for the absolute beginner although can be tackled by someone possessing average abilities and some welding experience. Why not see if there’s an evening college course in your area to gain useful skills?
  • Professional welding is vital on high structural areas and varies in price, but expect to pay £20-£30 per hour (plus VAT at 20 per cent). If you don’t want to haul your classic off to a workshop, consider a mobile welder with their equipment to carry out the necessary at home.
  • Always get as many quotes as you can as prices vary – plus there may be a welder having a quiet time right now. While a good classic specialist will know their business, ‘general welders’ are more likely to treat the work on a level playing field as a ‘job’ be it a Rolls or a Rover and charge less. This is a good idea for simpler work but anything more intricate to that model should be dealt with by a specialist.
  • If you’re thinking of buying welding equipment, there’s the choice of gas or arc (the latter is better for the DIYer) while Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) is ideal for restoration work. Equipment prices start from £250 but you need a kit developing 100 amps of power. Failing this you can hire out such equipment and if you only intend to do this once then it’s a more practical alternative.
  • If you are pretty competent with welding then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a go, starting off with smaller, simpler jobs first to build up confidence. The essential thing is to know, measure and ensure critical alignments remain set and keep checking them as you go, and starting again if it’s not up to your liking. There are many self-taught welders around who do a good job. However, you can always tell a pro and the neatness in their welds and if such exacting standards are demanded then have an expert do it.
  • Sometimes the welding operation is the easy bit – if the body is that bad and stripped to the bone, you may need to rig up a jig to keep the shell in the correct alignment before you can even begin to make good; definitely not a job for novices – although many have done it successfully!
  • Ever thought of using modern adhesives to ‘weld’ panels like new cars are produced? While it’s non standard, it is possible and also a lot easier than normal welding. Speak to a body specialist or product maker first on what you can and can’t use it for.


All vehicles require some type of ‘filler’ to make a body perfect and what you go for will determine the finished job

  • Body solder (better known as lead) was commonplace during car manufacturing to seal the joints between body panels for many years. Kits are available so that you can replicate these seams, but ‘lead-loading’ is also a skill which is hard to master. Body solder is effective for use on panels which are subjected to ‘shock’ loads and you may need to seek professional help for this job.
  • Plastic body filler is a lot simpler and we’ve all used it to bodge a panel or two in our time – well, haven’t we? Glass fibre is stronger and lasts longer but it’s more difficult to do. Similarly, properly repairing a fibreglass body is more than just filling in a rusty wing or sill and may need a professional to achieve the right repair standards.


A new shell could be the perfect answer for your classic

  • If your project turns out to be worse than you first thought once you started to prod and poke (and believe us it’s very common), then it may be prudent and far more practical to use a replacement bodyshell, either new or secondhand. Just make sure that it’s the right one for your car. This may sound obvious but there can be many subtle differences on a shell that’s older or newer than your base vehicle, eg MGBs, Minis.
  • Replacement brand new replica shells are available for many classics; Minis, Sprites/Midgets, MGBs, Escorts, Lotus Elans, Elites, E-types to name a few. But while they sound the perfect solution they are not cheap and a new shell may well need fettling to make good. Then you have to dial in prepping and spraying, all meaning the final cost could run to five figures and perhaps outweigh the value of the vehicle in question.
  • The alternative is to find a used shell but again you may run into similar rust problems although they should be significantly cheaper although you will probably still need to refurbish it.
  • Any new shell is likely to compromise originality and in a worst case senario, your classic could end up wearing a Q plate! This is a number suffix that is more associated with specials and kit cars. Apart from looking naff, any tax exemption will also be lost at the same time and, crucially, the vehicle will certainly seriously devalue. Speak to a restorer, body supplier and the DVLA about this before embarking upon any reshell.
  • Ever considered a crashed classic? After all, what’s the difference between a rusty piece of metal and a twisted and bent one! Write-offs can make good bargains but you have to know what you’re looking at and how much it will cost to repair the vehicle satisfactory and safely.
  • Heavy damage may lead to the V5 document being duly stamped signifying the category of damage and this will compromise a vehicle’s value – more important on newer classics to be fair.
  • You can ‘over restore’ a vehicle! By this we mean that because you are literally hand building it, the panel fit and body finish will be considerably better than when the vehicle was new. No complaints from us about this, but other enthusiasts may like theirs to be as close to factory fit as possible instead even if it looks inferior. Irrespective of this, a restored body and chassis, rebuilt using modern materials, should last for decades and far longer than first time around.


After all that time and effort you’d be mad not to rust-proof your beautiful body for prosperity and peace of wallet. However, how far you go is down to you and how original you want the vehicle to follow factory standards when new as many cars came only with painted undersides. Check out what’s on the market and at the very least use Waxoyl or similar in every box section and have the floor and inner wings rust treated.


Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Britians top classic cars bookazine