by Tony 'Tosh' Brooks
Recently my good friend and popular admin, Mike Peake, was asking my advice on what to do with the boot lid on his 1970 Triumph Herald “Poppy”, as it had several blisters and marks, as well as the paint was faded and had been burned through in several places where he’d tried to polish it up with a machine polisher.
Mike, Simon Stock Yeardon and myself were having a good look at the boot lid at our recent group meet at Coventry Transport Museum and decided the only thing to do would be to strip it back down to bare metal. There were several layers of paint on it and with the way it had shrunk and blistered, it would be impossible to just sand and feather out all the imperfections and get a decent finish, especially as he intended to do the job in his garage using rattle cans. (Aerosol spray paint).
As Simon and myself tried to explain the process to Mike we could clearly see his eyes glazing over and the colour dropping out if his face! I’m not sure whether this was because he wasn’t really taking in what we were telling him, or whether he was processing the cost of all the materials he would need to do his lovely Poppy justice!
I’ve decided since that it couldn’t possibly be the financial implications, as Poppy is his pride and joy and no expense would be spared to make her beautiful again. So it must just be the fact that it was difficult for a novice to take in everything we told him. By the time we got to the finishing point, he had probably forgotten what we told him to start with!
Fortunately I’ve had to do exactly the same job on the bonnet and boot lid of my 1961 Mk2 Zephyr this week, so I thought I’d take advantage and do a sort of picture story for Mike and anyone else who has a restoration project on the go, with little or no experience of the bodywork process. I hope it helps you out and at least gives you an idea of the work and materials involved, up to the point of applying the primer and top coats.
Obviously the method of applying the primers and top coats will depend on the facilities and equipment you have available, whether you intend using rattle cans or a compressor and spray guns etc so no real point in me going into that for now.
So my Zephyr is a very solid and straight car which has had lots of bodywork already started before bought it. Being a bodyman obviously i found that most of the work was well below par, with terrible welding repairs to the rear doors and although the roof had been taken down to bare metal and treated with a grey primer, it still had a couple of shallow dents and obvious marks and scratches all over it. The doors will need to be stripped of the welded panels and new door skins fitted and the roof will be sanded right back again and any issues dealt with when it’s bare.
The bonnet and boot lid had a total of ten coats of paints and primers on them. They we chipped scratched and had some micro blistering, so the only way to do a decent job would be to strip them to bare metal.
I had already tried using paint stripper on the front wings of the car. Proper proffesional paint stripper, supposedly for use on vehicle paints, which was toatlly useless. It lifts the first softer coat off but didn’t even touch the coats underneath, even after several applications.
Due to recent EU health and safety laws, most paint stripper has had all the nasty ingredients removed, as they are corrosive or harmful to health. Unfortunately those ingredients make paint stripper what it is and without them, they are all pretty much useless on all but the softest paint finishes.
Apart from sending the panels away to a media blasting company, which is very expensive and unless they use the correct materials and have an operative that knows what they are doing, also risks the panels getting warped in the process, there is very little option but to strip using stripping discs, attached to an angle grinder.
You could spend hours and hours sanding the paint layers off with an electric or air sander, but you will use loads of sanding discs and it takes forever, so the stripping discs, although expensive at around £5 each are much better. Still not quick or easy, just “quicker” and “easier”.
When using the grinder, which tends to spin much faster than a standard sander, you must try and keep the stripping disc flat to the surface and keep it moving all the time.
Don’t gouge it at an angle and don’t stop in the same spot or you will badly damage the surface of the metal and leave deep scratches or cuts which will require filling back in after.
Don’t worry about getting every last bit of paint off with the stripping discs, as you will be sanding the whole surface off afterwards anyway and the bits left on will sand down relatively easily. It’s better to leave some of the original red oxide primer on and sand it down later rather than taking too much of the metal surface down with the grinder.
So once you have stripped off as much of the paint as you can with the stripping discs on the ginder, you need to go over the whole surface with a the sander. I use an 80 grit sanding disc to start with, which is rough enough to take off any remaining paint and primer, as well as sanding out any scratches or marks left by the grinder, but not too rough as to damage the bare metal.
I was fortunate that my panels didn’t have any sign of rust, or rusty scabs etc. If you are not so lucky and find rust, now would be a good time to deal with it. Depending on how bad it is, you will need to either cut it out and weld in new metal, or lead any small holes. Or if it’s just surface rust then treat with a suitable rust converter or rust inhibitor.
I was however plagued with small dents on the boot lid. So with the surface fully sanded it’s a good time to highlight and dents which should be easy to see on te sanded panels. I hammered out any dents that i could get to from behind but unfortunately most were behind the strengthening bars so would just have to be filled and sanded.
It was so cold at the time of doing these panels that the filler was taking forever to go off, so this is about as far as I got with them, but as mentioned earlier the final processes will depend on how you will be applying the paint coats.
The filler will be sanded off the boot lid and a spray filler coat applied. This will be sanded back along with the whole panel using a finer (180 grit) sanding disc, before applying an etch primer coat.
The etch primer is not sanded and when it’s dry I will apply two or three coats of high build primer before wet flatting and applying the top coats.
I hope this has been useful to you Mike, and to anyone else. I will update this if anyone is interested when i get to the finish coats but obviously mine will be painted all at once as I’m doing the whole car and not just individual panels.
It’s not easy, it’s not quick and it’s not cheap but very rewarding when you get it right!
Have fun. All the best
Tony Tosh Brooks
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