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Simon's XI build, and other nonsense


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More panel making today. This time is was the transmission tunnel top. Since the supplied panel is for a gearbox I don't have, behind an engine I'm not using, the holes don't line up. Which is no great surpise, and a problem entirely of my own making. I also want to have the possibility of running with no carpets, but I don't want to have the visible gap between the top and side tunnel panels.

 

So I decided to have a go at making a suitable panel. The plan was to have it run from the rear bulkhead to the under dash panel, and with turned down edges to give a clean, smooth look.

 

The first step was to file down the side panels, as they sat up at the front edge by a millimetre or two. I could then measure up and transfer my marks to a clean sheet of aluminium. It was then on with the clamps, bits of steel tube and setting to with the hammer.

 

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All was going well, and the panel was forming up nicely apart from it being flat. It was time therefore to make it not flat, and kick up at the front to match the chassis. I planned on using either the hammers to stretch the panel edge, and therefore curve it, or do the same with my shrinker/stretcher. The hammers weren't working very well, I was mainly making the edge taller rather than wider so I tried the stretcher. This did work better, and it gradually raised the front as I wanted. Just as it was nearing being a good fit, I split one side! I'd marked the inner face too heavily with my scribe, and it caused the panel to crack.

 

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This was a little annoying. But as its also the first panel I've messed up so far, I'm not upset to have made it as far as I have with so few mistakes. With hindsight, I should never have scored the panel as it was inviting this to happen. So I decided to have another go at the panel, but this time I wanted to change how I was doing it. The panel was marked out the same, except the scoring, but was set up for forming to closely resemble the chassis, with the kick being formed in as I went. The panel had the correct fold put across it first, and the the front edge was held up the correct amount to allow the turned over edge to be right in one go. I also lowered the edge height from 25mm to 18mm as it would require much less stretching and therefore be much easier to form.

 

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This approach worked much better! I soon had a panel that sat in place and fitted well. If I was being really critical, the front edge is maybe 1-1.5mm too wide on the passenger's side but I'm not going to make it a third time for such a small gap.

 

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Once I get some of the right size washers and some more button head bolts, I can get the driver's side rivnuts fitted and bolt it down. Once I'm happy with the fit, the final step is sorting out the gear stick hole, and finding a suitable surround and gaiter. I may well borrow @Simon Marks - North Oxfordshire AO idea of using a CV boot as it looks quite period and suitably racey.

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Whilst I wait on the postie to bring me an MGB gear surround, I've made a start on the front wheel well panels.

 

I was very much in two minds about these. The grp panels I've got aren't too bad and would fit as they are, but would need a good bit of height adding to come close to the wing tops. The more I looked at them, the less happy I was with adding them because they're grp and black, rather than aluminium. If the mould was double sided, and both sides were flat and smooth, I'd be more tempted to use them.

 

So the decision was taken to remake them in aluminium. But what shape to do? Do I replicate the grp panels, only a bit taller to actually match the bodywork? Or go shorter, and see about copying the original Eleven's approach with panels added to the bonnet? The originals looked like this under the skin:

 

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This is where my previous hunt for coloured rivets would come into play, as they would ideally be needed to attach the panels. I'd rather not glass any panels in, as I prefer the more solid attachment of rivets. Annoyingly, I've found a small slightly discoloured patch on the bonnet, with some pinholes, in the gelcoat. This may well mean I need a rattle can or two of matching paint anyway. The Lotus version also had the added benefit of better engine bay access.

 

As you can probably guess, I've decided to go with the Lotus version of the panels. Most of the above reasons, whilst valid, are still mainly justifications for doing the extra work!

 

The lower pontoon end panels will be first. They're the easiest to template, and will give me an edge to aim at for the bonnet panels. As with the other pontoon panels, the template was first, then a timber hammer form was cut and the panel roughly hammered to shape.

 

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At this point, the panel is fairly flat, but the curved flange is far from its finished shape, with several bumps left to flatten out. I can only do so much with hammers, as I find shrinking with them really hard past a certain point. But the bumps have to come out or the panel fit will be rubbish. So they all get hammered flat, which then curves the panel due to the tension it creates. This is pretty much what I bought my shrinker/stretcher for. It takes maybe 20-30 secs to shrink the edge of the flange enough to straighten the panel! The below photo shows the panel with one final adjustment left to make.

 

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Once the panel was flat, the other two edges could be worked. The sloping edge from the chassis rail to the pontoon end is folded over and back on itself, with the edge against the engine bay side folded forwards to give a riveted edge.

 

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Following a few final touches of the hammer to the curved edge, I was happy enough with the fit to get some sealant on and rivet the panel in place:

 

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Driver's side is done now too, although I had to re-fit the pontoon end panel first. The correct fit can't be achieved on the bench as fitting alters the shape of the panel.

 

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There was a little more work under the car for this side, as the overlapping pontoon and floor panels create a nasty gap due to the joggled flange and all the rivets being normal heads rather than either using countersunk ones on the lower panel, or riveting both on at the same time. That's not to say that I don't understand why Westfield do it this way, as it's much faster, requires less accuracy and very few pedantic folk like me would even notice, let alone care about it!

 

Rather than remove the entire side of the car, I've used the body hammers to get it all as flat as it can be for now but I forgot to take a photo of that.

 

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With the wheel wells done for now, I need to stiffen the bonnet hinges before I do the upper panelling, I could finish the transmission tunnel panel as the kind postie bought my gear lever surround. I've gone for an MGB surround and gaiter, although the gaiter has a quite obvious moulding line across it which I'll try to remove at some point.

 

The first task was to make sure I cut the opening wide and long enough to allow all the gears to be selected. This was part of the reason for the MGB surround, as it's oval rather than circular and big enough. The first step was to mark the back of the panel. Cutting would've been much simpler with a 3" hole saw but since I don't one of those it had to be chain drilled and filed to shape.

 

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The surround comes with 4 Phillips screws, but I don't have nuts that fit them nor do I want to fit rivnuts for this, so I'll probably look at using M5 countersunk bolts and nylocs. The brass bolts are temporary, although I do like the contrasting colour! The gear level will also be extended and widened slightly so that I can attach a gear knob correctly.

 

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With the supplied Westfield gearknob propped in place on a mock up extension, the office is starting to look more finished. I may have spent a couple more minutes than was strictly necessary sat in the car, imagining my local roads.

 

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Garage test drives are always great, Simon  😉

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6 hours ago, Simon Marks - North Oxfordshire AO said:

Garage test drives are always great, Simon  😉

 

My most heroic driving is done sitting still! 

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9 hours ago, Simon Marks - North Oxfordshire AO said:

Garage test drives are always great, Simon  😉

I have to admit I've done the same, just to ensure I still fit in it of course...

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Since I don't want to do any of the work at the back of the car at the moment, as applying IVA trim is boring, and I get dirty looks for storing the bonnet in the dining room, I figured I may as well carry on with the panel work at the front. Building the engine will need to happen soon too, but I need to remove the bonnet for that......

 

Whilst sat looking for a few little things to do, I realised that I never fitted the live cable to the starter when I bolted the battery in. As I'm using a gear reduction starer with a built in solenoid, no separate starter solenoid is needed which makes the wiring a lot neater. With the undertray removed, a neat and tidy route presented itself. I still need to find some terminal boots for both ends of the cable, but I'll leave fitting them until I've sorted the last few bits of wiring in the engine bay.

 

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Since I was under the front of the car, I figured I'd give templating the first of the under bonnet panels a go. I think i can use the panel that runs down to the radiator opening for a triple duty: to close the wheel well, stiffen the hinges and to form the side of the radiator ducting.

 

Due to the curved nature of the bonnet, this took some time to get a close enough fit between the bonnet and engine bay panel. Too loose a fit would mean they're less likely to do a worthwhile job; too close and the bonnet won't close!

 

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I was hopeful that I could use the template for both sides, but it's no where near close enough to use. I can use it to speed the process on the drivers side instead.

 

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As I've never made a compound curve panel before, ie one with convex and concave curve I was a little unsure how this would work out. I need not have worried, as there's a neutral spot between the two curves that seemed to stop the curves affecting each other. I suspect that using a relatively short fold helped too.

 

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As I finished work early, I managed to get away with a couple of hours play time today.

 

The bonnet panel was on today's list, and the last bend was soon put on the panel and a few minor tweeks needed for a good fit.

 

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So then it was time to go about actually fitting it. This was a bit trickier than I had anticipated, due to one glaring issue: the nicely hammered flange is now hidden behind the panel and under the bonnet. 🤦🏼

 

This required seeking the assistance of the fiancé, who positively loves helping with work on the car. Especially when she has to do things like hold the bonnet open whilst I accurately mark and drill it. This in itself is quite hard, as the bonnet changes shape when it's open. With the bonnet shut, I had to reach round the engine from underneath to mark the inner two holes, and then measure up for the outermost one. Then open the bonnet again, drill the holes, close the bonnet, check the holes etc etc etc. Then I had the idea of adding some edging foam to the panel to take out some of the uneven surface of the underside of the bonnet. Only the thickness of the compressed foam meant the panel didn't fit, so I had to take it back off. Eventually, the panel fitted again, and all the holes were drilled.

 

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With a little sealant applied, the panel could now be fitted. It turns out that I am not a fan of riveting through fibreglass due to some of the scary cracking noises it can make! To ensure it all still fitted, as I dare not use clecos for this, I ended up using rivets to do the same thing as the sealant stops them falling out.

 

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So that's one panel down, maybe 5 more to go!

 

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Those splash guards are looking very good - really neat work.

 

I'm not sure I'd trust myself to rivet through the grp in case one of them was slightly off line or mis-spaced! I'd curse myself every time I saw it...

 

Will the top and bottom panels scrape together where they overlap when the clam is shut?

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47 minutes ago, Morris said:

Will the top and bottom panels scrape together where they overlap when the clam is shut?

 

I don't know for sure yet, I've not opened the bonnet! 😄

 

 

They shouldn't do, as I spaced the upper one forwards by the thickness of the sheet, so there's a 1.5mm gap between them currently. If I need to though, the lower edge can be bent forwards to give clearance.

 

Regarding the riveting, it was quite nerve wracking! I got the holes at either end done first, as that helps ensure all the ones in between line up.

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Continuing the theme, I'm pressing on with the passenger's side of the panelling. I've decided to split the long panel that runs to the tip of the nose into two pieces. The first, shorter, piece goes from the existing panel to the point where the engine bay chassis rails meet the crossmember at the front of the engine bay. Here the chassis angles straight forward and I don't fancy putting a bent flange on such a long and aggressively curved panel.

 

Today's work, once the thinking part was complete, was this shorter and much flatter section. This was formed with the same wood buck and hammer forming process I use for curved panels. There's probably a quicker way, but since I only know this way, it'll have to do!

 

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The small tab hanging down is the spacer I've used to ensure there's still enough clearance to the chassis to open and close the bonnet easily. Thankfully, due to the hinge being so low down, anything above the hinge point has to move forwards and upwards at the same time. What that means in practice is that these panels can only move away from the pontoon end and so the risk of clashing is much reduced.

 

This panel was fairly simple to make, as the curve was quite shallow. The next panel down into the nose will be a good deal harder!

 

I'm also unsure how I feel about the aluminium rivets against the orange. Part of me likes them; they contrast well, running on from the row on the pontoon, whilst also carrying on the orange and silver colour scheme from the side pods. Part of me also thinks they should be the same orange as the bonnet and should be hidden in plain sight. What are people's thoughts?

 

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FWIW, paint them body colour would be my vote. 
 

Painted
 

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Not rivets, but you get the idea…I’d have preferred body-colour for these fixings too. 

 

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Thanks @corsechrisfor those photos. Unfortunately, I quite like the look of both of them! The painted ones look a lot sleeker, but the rows of shiny bolts look quite purposeful too. It is helpful seeing the effect against another bright colour though.

 

I'm still torn! I suspect it will come down to whether I crate any small cracks or chip the gelcoat, as I'll need to prep and paint it then regardless......

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As long as they're in straight (or regularly curved) lines, I think both options have their merits.  I'd say it's easier to add paint later if you don't like silver, rather than taking the paint off if you prefer silver.  Lastly, with bare rivets, there's no paint to chip off and look ragged.

 

How's that for an 'anything tidy will do' answer?

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Thank you @IainCameronfor sitting firmly on the fence!! 😆

 

I doubt I'll do anything either way as yet, as like you say painting them later is much easier than unpainting them!

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