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November 19 2005

Any restoration project goes through ups and downs and the breakdown phase is definitely a downer phase, but an extremely important one. This is the time to inventory and assess everything as it comes off. A running list is kept of all parts that need replacing and what is salvageable. Because this is going to be a hard-core restoration photo documentation is essential to ensure everything goes back exactly the way it came out.

The full list of what parts are needed won't be completed until all subunits are broken down. Everything metal is broken down and prepared for cleaning.

 Here are my helpers for the day: Thomas, my 16 year old son, and Kayleigh a 17 year old  Mini nut from the neighbourhood.

Preparing the shell for cleaning is a filthy, disgusting job. All undercoating has to be removed to allow the dunk tank to do its job. Propane torch and scrapers help, but it still takes a full day to get all of it off.

November 20, 2005

Here's the shell ready to go out to Rusty's Metal Cleaning, a local shop. They have a caustic soda tank big enough to handle a full-size yank tank so a Mini shell is a giggle for them. Once the shell is done in the tank it goes into a sand-blast booth where all the rusty areas are cleaned with high volume low pressure sand blasting. The smaller parts go from caustic soda to a de-rusting solution.

One last step in preparation for stripping is to cut out the non-salvageable panels so that the weld flanges are cleaned to grey metal.

While the shell is off being cleaned it's a good time to break down the power unit. Even though the engine has travelled about 68,000 miles it's in excellent shape needing only a thorough cleaning then the usual rings, bearings etc. The oil and antifreeze has not been changed in 30 years which was understandably disgusting.

The gearbox is another story. After the accident it was replaced with an A type factory 'Gold Seal' replacement. Since the A boxes are non-repairable it is scrap.

December 15

Rusty's do a fantastic job and the cost is very reasonable compared to the amount of time it would take to do this job myself. They leave the surface clean enough that welding can begin immediately.

When shells are delivered to Rusty's they are usually left on the rotisserie so that the shell can be rolled over in the blasting booth to get access to the underside, thereby saving valuable time. Because the Wolseley is longer than a normal Mini shell the centre pole is too short to use the rotisserie stand, but it was left in so the weak shell could be handled easily. Some wise acre noted that it must be the 'stripper pole'.

The small metal parts come back shiny and clean. Most of them only need a wipe with solvent and painting with chassis black before they are ready to be installed. Others, like the brake and clutch master cylinders will need to put through the zinc plating bath.

Sandblasting reveals all the hidden horrors. Any thin metal is blown away revealing... nothing, thin air.  It really doesn't matter whether the panel has one hole or 37, it still needs patching or replacing. At least with nothing hiding it is easier to assess how big a patch panel is required, or if more than 50% of the panel is damaged, whether it should be replaced.

With Rusty's low pressure high volume blasting technique steel is left in grey condition but suffers no distortion at all. Commercial sandblasting use high pressure, low volume that aggressively takes off paint and rust but heats and distorts panels, sometimes to destruction.

Fortunately atmospheric conditions on the prairies and inside the heated workshop mean that the shell can be left in bare steel throughout the restoration. Relative humidity remains under 50% so no flash rusting takes place. Grubby hand prints will cause a slight bloom, but nothing that can't be cleaned up with a wipe of phosphoric acid wash.

Panels like the boot and bonnet are clean enough to go straight to prep and paint. What could be better? The doors, on the other hand, need new bottoms and skins.

December 17

Restoration finally begins. The first job is to push the toe board back into its proper position and pull the bulkhead back to close the door gaps. This was accomplished by disconnecting the floor pan front edge and using a hydraulic jack to push between a bar on the steering rack mount and the seat cross member. While 6 tons of pressure was on the jack, the front bulkhead was pulled back against the rear bulkhead with a come-along. As the door gaps closed up to the correct dimension 1/8" steel plates were welded into the door openings and the new, longer and heavier wall, rotisserie pole clamped in place.  The bulkheads are now held ridged by the rotisserie thus preventing the shell from folding or twisting.


Rock bottom

With the load from the shell transferred to the central supporting rotisserie pole and the sides reinforced with steel plates, all the Crayford installed reinforcing could come out. Crayford didn't install their reinforcing as one piece, but instead put it in one piece at a time, bolting and welding as they went. This meant that the reinforcing in the rear companion bins had to be cut out, thereby condemning the companion bins themselves to the scrap bin

Also cut out was the main floor section. Due to numerous perforations and accident damage, the rear floor pan was also not salvageable, something that had not been anticipated during the assessment. 

December 28

The first step in panel repair is to cut back to sound steel and clean all the edges. A relatively straight cut makes forming the patch panel somewhat easier.

The floor pan assembly is clipped in place to serve as a guide while forming the lower edge of the patch panel.


Patch panels are formed, mostly by hand and fit so there is almost no gap, then butt welded with TIG. The time needed for welding is 90% fitting, 10% actually welding

 Many will argue this point, but TIG is the only way this sort of repair should be done. The weld is done by fusing the edges together using only a very small amount of filler rod. The resulting seam is slightly depressed with no warping of surrounding metal. MIG cannot accomplish a weld like this, particularly in the hands of an amateur, without the need for significant amounts of grinding. It is the grinding process which further distresses and work hardens the metal. TIG leaves the panel malleable ready for bumping to its final shape.

This is the right inner wing and A post repair, a panel which is not available. Even though this panel will be hidden it will be finished such that the weld seam will be undetectable under the paint, no filler is needed on these seams, just high build primer.

The backside of the panel looks just as good as the side that was welded on. Some fine work with a sanding disk is all that's needed to make the seam disappear. Final bumping is needed to form the entire panel into its proper shape, which is particularly important for this car considering the extent of damage from its accident 35 years ago.

Again, this panel will be hidden by trim, but the objective is to restore the car without evidence that it has ever been restored. It should look just the way it did the day it was awarded.

If you care to read more about my philosophy on restoration, go here

December 30

Patching of the inner wings and windscreen scuttle is complete so it's time to trial fit the A panels and wings. The front valence is a MK IV panel but it will have to do until the Mini Machine, sorry, "M-Machine", order arrives with the correct panel.

This part of the process demonstrates that there is no such thing as too many vise grips! They make an excellent Xmas gift by the way.


January 2, 2006

This right rear corner has been bothering me for some time. It's a difficult patch to make since this area is curved in every dimension and there's the waistline break and boot opening flange there too. No time like the present, eh? First job is to cut out the rusty area to sound metal, then form a patch panel. It wasn't as hard as I thought, so after 2 hours of work the area was repaired and looked as if it had never been damaged.

Since the Hornet shell is a composite of special panels and assembly line Mini panels there is a flange right at the corner of the boot lid running up to where the rear window would have been. Originally this was loaded with lead, so that is how this one is finished.

One of the reasons this area was so badly rusted is that there was a fibreglass patch underneath that kept moisture against the steel. It makes one wonder what people are thinking when it takes less time to repair it properly than it takes for fibreglass to cure,

January 3, 2006

Exactly why both bottom corners of both 1/4 windows rotted out is beyond me. Repair is pretty straight forward using the same process as all the other patches: cut back to sound metal, make a tight fitting patch and fuse the edges with TIG. A bit of blending of edges with 80 grit sanding disks on the pneumatic tools and it's ready for paint.


January 4, 2006

Now the top of the windscreen frame is a can of worms. When Crayford cut the roof off they finished the top rail by welding on a sheet metal plate, but then heaped it up with nearly 1/4" of filler. Since the convertible top closes on this edge it was badly gouged and looked a mess. I had the metal cleaners leave this area so I could use it as a gauge for the repair. Unfortunately, nothing is square, straight or flat so what shape to make it?

The new top plate will have a constant smooth shape and no filler. The wood nailing strip in the top will have to be remade anyway so at least it will be a simple shape to carve.



February 12, 2006

Progress since last report: 

Mini Machine panel order arrived

Mini Sport mechanical parts arrived

Engine machining done

Not much activity in the shop because of rallies and my annual lecture series at the University. In between other jobs I managed to get one door frame repaired and ready for the skin.

M-Machine provide a pretty good service and they make a lot of panels that cannot be found anywhere else. BUT, I really do not like their welding or sheet metal finishing, particularly on panels made from Rover patterns. I'd just rather get the base panel and the patch insert and do the work myself.

Some of their panels are the wrong shape, like these lower door repairs. The outer door skin has a bit of a arc but these things are broken square. And don't even get me started on their door steps! Not even close.



March 11, 2006

The nitriding of the engine parts (crankshaft, camshaft, rocker shaft etc) is done and I have processed many of the smaller parts through the zinc plating bath.


The M-Machine boot extension panel for the Wolseley/Riley is nothing more than a straight piece of steel and not at all what I was expecting. The original extension has a wide bead set into it for strength and the edge is offset where it is spot welded to the saloon boot floor pan. To make the M-machine panel look like the original the bead had to be replicated. It has been very frustrating trying to find a sheet metal shop that has the time to do a small job and one that also has a bead roller. The closest I got was a quote of $400 and a month to get around to it. Consequently, I now own a Pexto 622 bead roller, but I had to make a set of rolls to form the bead I wanted. It only took 10 minutes to form the bead in the panel and offset the flange. I'm sure this machine will be very handy for future jobs!

Here's a photo of the finished panel, and what's left of the original above it.


March 19, 2006

Both quarter panels have been repaired and are ready for final bumping.


The M-Machine boot floor pan is a Rover MK IV injection panel so it has taken about 30 hours to modify it to resemble a MK I floor. Same goes for the main floor pan which M-Machine sells as a MK I/II, but is not quite good enough for a restoration. Like all their panels I had to go over their welds and joints so they don't show, and had to redo some of their sheet metal work.

This photo shows the remote extension hole patched and the corners around the front tunnel reshaped and rewelded.


Around the back, the rear valence is supported by three brackets, all of which were intact, but pretty shabby. I decided the best thing to do was to replicate them. Here is the RH corner support, shown here on the left as the shell is upside down. The original part is sitting beside the new one.

The rust bloom on the battery box and other areas is from the acid I used to wash the panels down. It turns out to be hydrochloric acid which cleans beautifully, but flash rusts like crazy, especially now that we have snow and the moisture in the shop is up around 50%. I'll have to find some phosphoric acid for panel prep.

Work at the back is nearly complete so it's almost time to weld the floor pans in and move forward!


April 9, 2006

Before the boot floor went in, it was an ideal time to paint the areas that are really difficult to get at later on, particularly up into the tail fins. Same goes for the door frames: once the repairs were done, and before the skins go on, they were painted. They are the same colour by the way, it's just the camera that makes them look so different..





April 22, 2006

With the boot floor completed and welded in, the main floor could be jacked forward and welded in place. The porta-power in this photo was necessary to force the toe board into contact with the leading edge of the floor pan. After an initial thrust of around 3 tons the rear seat pan slipped into place and was clamped against the heel board. The rear frame was a tight fit, so another small thrust was required to reposition the clamps, then the frame mount holes lined up exactly. 

A Miller spot welded makes quick work of the several hundred welds along the sills and rear seat pan.The sill and A post reinforcements that Crayford installed were bolted and welded in so they had to be cut out to allow the original metal to be replaced. It was a lot easier to recreate their reinforcements  than try to restore what was left. Here's the new metal being roughed in.

Moving forward, the outer A panels are in place ready for the doors to be hung. The spot welder tips just fit inside the inner wing to attach the A panel. The Inner A panel is a different story. Some of it can be attached properly, but the connection near the hinge brackets will have to be TIG welded.

October 31 2006

Yes, it has been a long time since my last confession update. This project had to be put aside in May when I had to go out of the country for a series of lectures, then I was voluntold to work with the community battling a developer hell bent on ruining our neighbourhood. I have also been busy designing new electronic distributors for Lotus, Ford and Datsun engines, then I took a side trip to Laguna Seca for the historic races. Now that others are helping with the developer issue, and snow is on the ground (curses!) I finally have time to get back to sheet metal work.

The power unit is done! Through kind donations of useless gearboxes from all over Canada, I have gathered enough parts to build one correct gearbox. Everything is assembled and painted correct green, the only thing missing is the Wolseley sticker for the rocker cover. Before the engine goes into the car I will run it on the dyno stand to ensure there are no leaks.

November 12, 2006


All the reinforcement parts have been fabricated and are ready to be welded in.











Other than welding in the reinforcements, the floor pan and bulkheads are finished.









 Before the rest of the reinforcements can be bolted and welded in,  the areas to be boxed in have to be painted. The 'C' section reinforcement inside the companion bins is already welded in place.





November 13, 2006

All the reinforcements are in place and work on the interior of the shell is virtually complete. 







These gussets are critical in keeping the front bulkhead from rotating backwards and closing the door gap. Getting the door gaps at an even 1/8" all around took several days of work involving jacking the opening, bending the door, cutting and welding of the 1/4 panel and heating/bending of the windscreen frame. Most of the adjustments were necessary to remove distortions from the accident.

December,  2006

The rear valence panel was salvaged and welded back into place.









The new reinforcements help hold the panel ridged, but this area is very vulnerable to accumulation of mud, so mudflaps and shields made of HDPE will be constructed.









Off the rotisserie and onto the cradle so the front end can be fitted and welded in place. Still lots of work to do on the reproduction nose section since the shape is not right at all.









it's also time to fit the boot lid and lock mechanism. The fit of the boot lid is terrible! Some work with the porta-power will be needed to move the rear scuttle panel back. 


...it has taken 540 hours of shop time to get to this point....


February,  2007

What's the phrase, Life is what happens when you're making other plans? Well January was one of those months. The building where I was storing all the cars, parts and antique equipment got sold and I had to clear out on 2 weeks notice... in the dead of winter. Everything is secured, and I have purchased an industrial warehouse but I don't get to move in until June. In the meantime....


In the odd weekend between moving, community commitments and rallies I've been concentrating on the gaps of the moving panels. The bonnet fit was terrible, owing to the totally incorrect shape of the M-Machine reproduction Elf/Hornet nose panel. With a considerable amount of bending the grille and signal bezels fit quite nicely.


Because of the accident, the A post and windscreen frame were out of place, so the door was used to line everything up, starting with the B post. The door gap ended up at a constant 1/8" all the way around except for the middle of the rear quarter. A straight edge confirmed that the door edge was straight, but the quarter panel never was! An additional 1/16" gap was needed so a slot was cut using a 1/16" cutoff tool, it was then bumped shut and rewelded.


Far too many hours have been applied to the boot lid. When that panel came back from the metal cleaners it appeared to need nothing more than paint, but in fact it turned out to be badly distorted. The car had been bumped in the back which forced the boot latch in, springing the lid into a 3 dimensional mess. Lots of heating, bending, cutting and rewelding will be needed before it fits correctly.


You know you're dealing with an old car when it still has wood in it! the nailing strip for the soft top is not in very good shape so a new one was made. The windscreen frame is a very complex 3D curve so it took a few hours to make the wooden piece. It's clear now why Crayford gooped up the frame with body filler rather than spend the time to make a wooden part to fit perfectly. 




February 2009

...forgive me father, it has been 2 years since my last update...

The new vinyl top was fabricated in 2008 and not much else happened that year because of a work/life balance issue. That's mostly resolved now so maybe this project will be back on track?

Nick at Min-E-Bitz was able to supply a new boot lid to replace the twisted one. That was the single piece holding up completion of the sheet metal work. That is now finished and all the fiddly details that needed attending to are also finished. The seam sealing is done so the shell is ready to go away for paint. This is an exciting time!

The paint process is:

 final cleaning of the bare steel;
complete layer of epoxy primer
spraying of colour on the inside, underside, engine compartment and boot;
masking of the openings;
spraying of high-build primer on external body panels;
blocking (re-build, block, rebuild, block...);
final sanding; and
final paint!

If all goes according to plan, the shell will be back in the shop in March ready for assembly. Stay tuned...