Union Jack

Restoration of My 1967 AH Sprite MK4

Chapter I -- Begin Restoration

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Note: Each photo below can be clicked for a larger view

Motor I actually started the restoration several years ago. An employment change and other situational occurrences seemed to have stalled it almost indefinitely. Now that we have started moving again, I don't expect any more significant delays. I hope to have a running, driving car in a matter of months rather than years. As noted near the end of the Sprite introduction, Dan got me started and has been a great help in both finding and restoring many of the boxed parts. The car was literally an empty shell with separate big bits and 20 boxes of smaller pieces, none of which were identified. He is almost finished with those 20 boxes of pieces, sand blasting or otherwise cleaning and painting or polishing as he identifies them. Here is the engine, ready to go, resting on a shop built, rollaround stand.

Remove From Shelf Jackstands Now to digress a little. While still employed, I sent the engine to Glass Auto Restorations for a complete overhaul and minor performance upgrade. I also purchased a Datsun 210 5-speed gearbox and ceramic coated exhaust header. The carburetors were restored by Jim Taylor, a since deceased expert in everything SU. The distributor was built by Advanced Distributors. Beyond that, I had done nothing and purchased nothing.

Rotisserie Back Rotisserie Front By the time I got the apron back in the Prefect, Dan had been through most of the parts boxes and wanted the body down. Here, a neighbor brought his forklift to get it down from the upper shelf then set it down on jack stands. This is the same neighbor who put it up there with his forklift over a year ago. Interestingly, he is the also son of the lady I bought Judy's Super Beetle from several years ago. From there, we started building a rotisserie for it since we would need access to the bottom as well as the top. This same design held a MGB for Dan several years ago, even with much of the suspension installed so it should be overkill for the lightweight Sprite. It sure looks better from this side that doesn't have the missing fender flare.

That done, I started dealing with that red paint. I really hate to admit it but I did that to myself when I thought I wanted the car red for resale purposes. The paint is an industrial enamel, urethane converted, that I thought close enough to the proper color. I have a gallon of PPG Tartan Red lacquer for the outer body. Fortunately, it only has one coat of paint because that stuff is pretty tough. My paint supplier LM Auto color assures me that white epoxy primer as a sealer coat will cover it well enough for the finish paint to hide it. I just have to scuff it up enough for the epoxy to get a bite. On the highly visible surfaces, I feel that I need to do a bit more. It seems I shot the red a little dry so it has enough orange peel that I want to flatten it some. The right photo shows where I am on sanding starting from the offside. I have since finished machine sanding the top and have rotated it on the rotisserie for access to the bottom. There is still some hand sanding required where I couldn't reach with the D/A sander or the smaller multi-tool. The die grinder and some hand work will take care of that.

Wing Before Wing After With the car bottom side up on the rotisserie, we studied the damaged rear wing and its wheel well again and determined it would be much easier to make that repair on the rotisserie rather than later, shiny side up. We wanted access to the back side to hammer and dolly work the seam so I removed the outboard half of the inner wheel well which is separated by a structural member. This photo is with the wheel well removed. The wing had been distorted enough by the PO's work that it took a long 2x6 as a lever to get it close enough to even begin work. Then, Harold again brought his MIG welder and, over the next several days, we cut, fit, patched and welded over a half-dozen pieces to make that repair. Fortunately, after removing the original patch, I realized I would need additional parts and got part of a wing with its wheel well from a parts car before it went to the crusher.

After cleaning up the brass from brazing the original patch, the piece no longer fit so we cut a larger one from the parts car wing. The lower back end of it was pretty rusty though so we had to use part of the original patch to repair that. That left more rust at the lower rear that needed a whole new piece to patch. Finally, I did not get quite enough at the lower front end from the parts car so another little quarter inch wide patch had to be made for that. After a hundred or so stitch welds, the outer skin was installed and looks pretty good. I think very little filler will perfect it. Here it is with most of the welds waiting for grinding down.

Stretching Wheel Well The wheel well proved to be possibly even more challenging than the skin. I removed the outer half of it with an air saw so it would be a perfect fit to reinstall but its flare was missing, probably rusted away with the outer skin. There was not quite enough of the wheel well patch from the parts car to fill the gap so a composite had to be made from the two. The only way we could determine that ensured a proper fit to the outer skin was to at least tack the main piece in place then fit the flare to both it and the skin at the same time. This was far from trivial as it required a lap joint where the two meet. But after a few hours of careful trial and error, cut fit and cut again, it finally fell into place. The photo here shows our method of pushing everything into position before welding, trying to overcome its tendency to return to the position the PO left it in. Fortunately, after all joints were securely welded, everything remained in place. The center joint of the original well is at the bottom of the well in this photo. You can also see the lap joint at the ends and just a couple of inches below the flange but you have to look pretty closely in order to see it.

Floor hole After installing the main wing patch, the only remaining major structural or welding job was the near side rear spring mounting. My original appraisal was that it was pretty badly rusted and would need major replacement. This is a complex area in that it comprises the rear, double walled bulkhead, the cockpit floor and a couple of structural reinforcements. These pieces can all be purchased but it would be a major job replacing them. Further inspection, however, painted a less grim picture. The main structural reinforcements appeared to be sound. The bulkhead seemed all right except for the flange where it welded to the floor. And, there was a several square inch rusty section in the floor surrounding it.

Patched Floor patch The first photo shows the area with all rusty metal removed. The major support piece appears in the cutout section of the floor. It is a little hard to see but the welding flange of the bulkhead extended along the left side of that support and was completely rusted away. The floor then covered all that and wrapped down into the spring hanger box. The next photo is of the same area with it patched with new metal, including a replacement for the bulkhead welding flange that is hidden by the floor patch. There is still some grinding to do here and the actual spring hanger bolts onto the 2 threaded holes shown. The last photo shows the same area from above, at the back of the cockpit and under the driver's seat. Again, I still need to grind the welds flat then treat the whole area with seam sealer. Also, they are hard to see in the finished photo but those 2 holes in the support piece in the first photo are additional holes for bolting the spring hanger to the floor and support. These holes have to be drilled through the floor patch.