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Bodywork Published: 26th Apr 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Don’t underestimate the task at hand for this is most important part of any restoration. cut corners and you’ll pay dearly in the long run…

Be in no doubt, this area is the hardest thing you will tackle at home although, thankfully, much of the work is simply hard graft rather than sublime skills.

Doing all the labouring yourself means you can save a lot of money by calling in experts that may be required only when needed (see separate feature in this issue).
How easy or difficult a restoration becomes chiefly depends upon the availability of much needed replacement body and chassis parts where, in the worst cases, you may need to make them from scratch – which is time consuming and skilled work. If it’s metal then it is going to have to be welded, a job that has to be done right or it’s a waste of time especially on structural areas.

In a number of cases the actual welding operation is one of the easiest tasks – not so if the body is so bad when stripped to the bone where you may need to rig up a makeshift jig to keep the shell in alignment before you can even begin to make good. While it’s definitely not a job for novices, many home restorers have done it quite successfully in the past.

If you don’t want to or cannot haul your vehicle off to a workshop, consider a mobile welder using their equipment to carry out the necessary at your home. Get as many quotes as you can as prices will vary considerably between the garage trade and general welders. While a classic specialist know their business, ‘general welders’ are more likely to treat the work more on a level playing field as a ‘job’ be it a Ford or a Ferrari and probably charge less, although the welding may not be as pretty… This is a good ploy for simpler work on areas which are not visible but anything more intricate – or if you’re seeking concours standards – should be dealt with by a specialist.

Have you ever thought about modern adhesives to ‘weld’ panels like new cars are produced? Non standard, but a lot easier than normal welding. Speak to a body specialist who deals in classics, or product maker first, on what you can and can’t do.

Body solder (better known as lead) was commonplace during 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 skilled art which is difficult 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 be honest, who hasn’t used it to bodge a panel or two in our time? 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.

By all means, pour all the love and time you can in getting that body beautiful although bear in mind you can ‘over restore’ many classics. By this we mean that, because you are literally hand building it, the panel fit and body finish will be far better than when the vehicle was churned out at the factory. Many demand theirs to be as close to factory fit as possible instead even if it looks inferior but irrespective of whatever stance you adopt, a restored body and chassis, rebuilt using modern materials, should last for decades and far longer than first time around – if done right so don’t skimp here.

Building a better body

Fancy a crash course?

Have you considered a crashed classic? There’s not much difference between a wreck and a crashed classic – it simply needs a different approach although it may lead to the V5 document being duly stamped though, so check beforehand

Coming out of your shell

A brand spanking new bodyshell could answer all your worries but it comes at a cost – easily over £10K once fettled and painted. Old bodies can fall foul of the latest DVLA regs (see separate feature) and lead to a dreaded Q registration plate

The originality issue

A car with a chassis is easier and the DVLA regs are more friendly. If you do decide to reshell then you might have to allow for subtle differences over the years. For instance, the BMH Mini bodyshell is a hybrid combo of the various generations

Five top tips

Best to go pro?

Those that restore classics as a profession say that you can spot a DIY restoration a mile off. That’s a debatable point, but we’ve seen some stunning efforts from enthusiastic owners and what’s not in question is the fact that you’ll devote more time to your classic than any pro will want to

Accuracy counts

If there is an area a DIY guy may fall back on is quality control. It’s essential to know, measure and ensure that critical alignments remain set and keep on checking them as you go along – even starting all over again if it’s not up to your liking. There are many self-taught welders around who do a very competent job

What’s the cost?

Depending upon locality, professional welding typically costs £30-£50 per hour (plus VAT). If you don’t want to haul your classic to a workshop, consider about employing a mobile welder to do it at your dwellings

Weld done…

There’s the choice of gas or arc (the latter is better for the DIYer) although Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) is ideal for restoration work. Prices for such equipment start from around £275 but you need a kit developing at least 100 amps of power. Failing this, you can hire one

Budget right

Removing old paint, as well as rot and past repairs is a horrid, laborious job but essential if you want to do it right. An alternative is bead blasting but it costs and you have to haul your classic to them (more costs). Speak to likes of Pro-Strip and SPL for advice

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