Sanding reveals another blemish as the MGB GT restoration stalls

Sanding reveals another blemish as the MGB GT restoration stalls

Andy knew the left front fender had been damaged, but right-rear bump emerges as the paint comes off

(This is the latest update of a continuing series about the
restoration of a 1967 MGB-GT owned by the Journal’s East Coast editor Andy Reid.)

Yes, sanding is as uncomfortable as it looks

There comes a time in every car restoration when you start to wonder why you ever started it in the first place. This time came with starting to sand the paint off my 1967 MGB GT. 

If you have never done this, it is by far one of the most time-intensive and revealing parts of the process.

Since I am doing this restoration myself under the expert guidance of the staff at The Paddock, it was just me sanding the car.

The key to a great paint job, whether it’s in your house or on your car, is preparation, and that includes taping off the edges of your wall or the interior of your vehicle

Let the sanding begin… but will it ever end?

The first part of the job is to carefully tape off the car’s interior. Since I am doing very little to the original interior, this is a critical step. Just taping off the car correctly took hours, but finally I had the interior all protected.

Next comes sanding, sanding and more sanding. 

I used a high-quality DA sander and began the process. 

By the way, this is also a messy process and happily The Paddock has an isolation booth to keep the green paint dust from getting everywhere. I wore a respirator which is the only way to do this safely since paint can contain many toxic substances. 

We’re making progress

Hours later

There were two separate paint jobs on my MG, which made the process even longer. I finally got to bare metal on all the big parts of the car after sanding thru layers of paint and primer, and was happy to find that the original red MG primer was everywhere but on the period-replacement left front fender. 

I found a few things in the sanding process which brings to mind my friend John Saccameno, the owner of a restoration shop in Illinois called Sport and Specialty, who had said you never know what you have until the car is in bare metal. 

The replacement fender, which we had originally thought we could save by welding the proper turn signal assembly, has the only real rust we found in the car. These replacement fenders were not primed in the same was as they were in 1967 and the tin worm had gotten to it in a number or areas. 

We will be ordering a new British Motor Heritage Trust 1966-67 fender. Sadly, this is an $800 plus part, but we want to restore this car properly. (However, if anyone has a completely rust-free period 1966-67 MGB GT fender, please let us know as I would ideally love to use an original MG period part. If not, we will go with the pattern part from BMHT.)

That’s not a work of modern art. It’s the MGB GT’s aluminum hood (bonnet) as the paint stripper does its work

While sanding around a rear tail light assembly, I discovered that at some point very early in the cars life it had been hit in the right rear area. Instead of properly fixing it at the time, likely in the 1970s, someone basically pulled out the bump and sculpted a rear taillight hole in bondo. 

My friend, Guy, the painter at The Paddock, said whomever did the work was an excellent sculptor but a terrible fabricator. We will be cutting out the offending taillight assembly and welding in a good one from another car.

On the plus side, we found that except for the aforementioned replacement fender and the little bit of rust we already in the doglegs, the car is unbelievably free of rust for a 53-year-old MG. The rockers are original and completely solid as is the rest of the car.

The final step in the paint stripping process is dealing with the aluminum bonnet. Since sanders can destroy aluminum because of the heat they create, we chose to chemically strip it. 

This is the correct decision for the car but is a messy and horrible process involving toxic chemicals. If you are planning to use chemical stripper be sure you do the work outside as the fumes can kill you.

The aircraft paint stripper I used comes two ways, in a 1 gallon can and in smaller aersole cans. At first I tried the spray cans but the stripper was not very effective this way, only removing a bit of the paint. I started using the stripper from the 1 gallon can, painting it on with a brush. This proved quite effective. 

The way you use it is to brush it on in one direction and then let it sit for about 15 minutes. This removed some of the many layers of paint. The next time I let the stripper set for about 30 minutes. The stuff continues to work as long as it looks wet and the longer you wait the better it works. 

After it was done working, I used a plastic paint scraper to remove the paint and stripper that had bubbled off of the bonnet. 

After about two more times I had most of the paint off the hood and will remove the remaining paint and the body filler that was used to repair a dent in the front of the bonnet carefully with a cookie wheel on a grinder. This is more aggressive than the stripper and less so than a sander if used properly and is the only way to get all the filler out of the front.

Now I have a car that is just about completely stripped. I still need to get to the shop and do the final detail sanding carefully around the more delicate parts of the body. 

If you have guessed that there is no way on earth we are going to make it to Monterey this year with the MGB GT you have guessed correctly. We will, however — and this is a promise — be showing the car at the Saturday show during the Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance this fall in South Carolina.

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5 Comments

  • Jimmy Moran
    July 24, 2019, 3:16 PM

    Having been bitten by the MGB bug at a young age… by riding home from the dealership in a new 1977 that became mine as a teenager I am reading this with interest.

    A few British items I recall… The "hood" is called a bonnet, the convo top is the hood, and the "boot" is the trunk lid.
    Also, a few Joseph Lucas "Prince of Darkness" jokes seem to help. Why do the Brits drink warm beer? Lucas Refrigerators. Why do British office workers have muscular legs? Lucas Elevators.

    Another tidbit…try and Old Speckled Hen beer when you uncover more bondo or a wiring harness spliced with lamp cord. It was named after the inside parts delivery car @ the Abingdon factory, covered in overspray of various shades.
    Cheers!!!

    REPLY
  • James McIntire
    July 24, 2019, 4:01 PM

    I love MGB’s and they are some of the best British sports cars to come into the States. I gained a love for them when I was given the opportunity to help with the restoration of a rubber-bumper model B-roadster when I was a teenager in high school. I also quickly learned that they can be a total PITA to work on! Good luck to you!

    REPLY
  • Ryan Corman
    July 24, 2019, 5:07 PM

    I know you want to do most of the work, but I suspect you might have been better off timewise to have removed the interior and glass and had it professionally media blasted. Or stripped it to a bare shell and had it dipped. I’d much rather be smoothing primer and guide coats than chewing through decades old paint with an orbital- brrr! That’s just me.
    Love the series, hate the taste of paint & Bondo dust.

    REPLY
  • Bob Stake
    July 25, 2019, 5:50 AM

    Tedious work requiring a lot of patience. Labor of love and all that. Would really enjoy seeing the result, maybe I can make this my excuse to get to Hilton Head.

    REPLY
    • Michael Donnelly @Bob Stake
      July 26, 2019, 3:04 AM

      It’s coming along great and I’m impressed with your progress. It’s easy to take a break now but it’s time to steel your resolve and get it done!

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