Neil Fletcher Racing

HAVOC Article No 14.

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Rebuilding my Mexico - JIJ9975.

Part 4 - Putting it all back together.

 

At the end of the last article I was getting ready to paint the exterior of the car.  After spending some time masking off various areas of the car I was nearly ready to fire on a few coats of high build primer; doing this highlighted some minor surface imperfections which were filled with stoppers and then given a good going over with wet and dry sand paper.  More time was spent on final cleaning and preparation before I was ready to give the outside of the car some colour coat.  As well as erecting my spray booth I had also taken the precaution of buying myself a couple of spray suits etc, to combat the problem of dust and dirt, my girls reckoned I looked like a spaceman when I was wearing my air fed mask, spray suit and gloves etc.  The awkward areas of the shell - around the door and window apertures, and the rain channels etc and low down areas like sills and wheel arches were given a couple of coats first.  After this I was all ready to give the main panels a coat or two.  I always find spraying a car to be a little nerve wracking as once you have put on a coat of paint you need to get out of the spray booth immediately and stay out until the paint has dried, its only later that you can go back in and take time to look at the results of your work.  Once the top coat Sebring Red had dried or hardened sufficiently I did some more masking off so that I could paint the wing tops and area below the front windscreen matt black.  As I had used up all my cellulose matt black, my paint suppliers recommended that I use two pack black with a 50% mix of matting agent for this.  In reality when I had finished spraying it on, this ended up looking more like semi-matt black than proper matt black as we know it, but on this occasion it will do.  It was only a few months later that my suppliers discovered that they could still get matt black in cellulose, needless to say I ordered a couple of litres for the next time I would be needing it.  After the paint had all dried sufficiently, my second daughter, Laura had great fun helping me remove all the masking tape, newspapers etc.  Once finished we stood back to admire our handiwork, we were both impressed with how good the shell now looked in its new coat of paint.  I must admit that at one stage about 9 months earlier I never thought I would see the shell looking like this again.

 

 

After allowing the paint to harden for a few days one of the first things I started on was fitting the wiring loom.  The rear loom was fairly easy as it only needed cleaning and re-wrapping, I have a second loom down the driverís side - it carries the main power feed as well as wiring for both fuel pumps, solenoid etc.  Being a 73 Mexico the car originally had the battery in the engine bay, but I now have twin batteries in the boot.  Once wrapped in new loom tape both these looms were affixed down their respective inner sills, I cut little strips of alloy sheet, slid short lengths of bicycle tubes over them and pop riveted them to the inner sills, these were then used to hold the looms in place, both neat and period looking.  In contrast to this a lot of time was spent tidying up the wiring loom both behind the dash and around the engine bay.  Over the years there had been a lot of wires added for extra lights of various sorts, electric fuel pumps, intercom, foot switches for trip meters and air horns and all the navigatorís bits and pieces.  The main fuse box had been moved from the bulkhead to inside the car on the centre console and an extra fuse box had been added, there was also the extra wiring etc for the 24 volt starting system.  Just to give an example of the type of modification I mean, there are now 4 relays on the inner wing to cover the headlights and spots etc.  Many of these extra wires had just been tie wrapped to the original loom but now I unwrapped the old loom, replaced any suspect connectors and perished wires and wrapped the whole lot up again with fresh loom tape, it now looks really tidy and hopefully I should have no problems with this for many years to come.

 

While working at the loom I also started to fit the suspension back into the car so that I would be able to move it about within the garage.  The Atlas axle was in fairly good shape, only needing a lick of paint as it had been fitted about 18 months before the car was taken off the road.  The five link bars etc had previously been blasted and painted and along with the rest of the rear suspension had new bushes and rose joints fitted as required.  One area that did turn out to be a bit of a problem was the phosphor bronze rollers for my slipper springs, I just couldnít get any to suit the Mk1, I suppose most people use the PTFE style bushes nowadays.  One guy who assured me he had the correct ones ended up sending me the Mk2 type which are for a wider spring and mounting, and therefore donít fit, anyway I held on to them as I reckoned that I could get them machined to suit as a last resort.  In the meantime I put my old worn ones back in just to get the car mobile again.  At the time of writing, over a year later, I have now got the Mk2 ones modified and fitted. 

 

Moving to the front suspension, I discovered that a lot more work was required.  I knew that I needed new inserts for my Bilstein struts as one of them was well knackered, but I also ended up fitting new roller top mounts, TCAís, track rod ends, wheel bearings and various bushes etc.  The Bilsteins are the short tarmac Gp 4 type and because of their rarity, the inserts for them are usually quite expensive.  Luckily Peter Lloyd Rallying was doing them for the very reasonable price of £95 each, so a pair were ordered and fitted, the one old useable insert being put past for possible future use as a spare.  Most of the other components of the front suspension including the world cup cross member had by now been painted, so it was just then a matter of bolting it all together.  At long last I now had a rolling shell and I was really pleased with how the car was looking, I was also continuing with the final touches to the wiring loom and starting to fit all the lights, switches, indicators etc.

 

While I was doing this I also started to sort out the remaining panels - the bonnet wasnít too bad, it just needed blasting and repainting but the boot and two doors needed quite a bit of remedial work.  The driverís door was so bad that it really wasnít worth repairing so I replaced it with a reasonable second hand one that I just happened to have lying about, thatís one of the advantages of having driven Mk1s for nearly 25 years and never ever having sold one, in other words I have my own private scrap yard full of Mk1s.  It must run in the family because my mum has owned nothing but Minis from 1960, which is almost 45 years, in actual fact one could probably count on oneís fingers the number of times she has even driven any other type of car, I wonder if that is some sort of record.  Anyway back to the rebuild, a mate of mine looked at the repairs that I was starting to do to the boot lid and other door and said that I should really be replacing them as well.  The boot lid was badly rusted along the inside of the rear edge as well as being a little twisted from hitting the odd bank when the tail was a little too far out.  I cut out the rusty bit and set in a strip of steel right across the rear edge - the bottom edge of the navigatorís door needed similar repairs.  When my mate saw the finished articles he was quite impressed until he looked at the inside edges of both the boot lid and door.  I had just welded the repair strips in and then started to put on a coat of primer etc, he thought I should have put on a good coat of fillers and then no-one would have been able to see the repairs, I said that I was only interested in the strength of the repair and not the look of it, anyway fillers meant extra weight and that would just slow the car down!

 

By now it was late March and I was slipping a bit behind schedule as far as being at AVO Day in mid June was concerned, but I was still hopeful of getting everything sorted.  One day a friend of mine from my local motor club called round and on seeing how the car was coming along, he asked if I was going to do our local Hillclimb in early May, and when I say local I do mean really local as it is run up a hill about 2 miles from my house.  The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea, but this would mean I would need to knuckle down to some hard work instead of my usual plodding pace if I was to get the car sorted in time.  At this point the car was basically a rolling shell with some of the various fittings installed.  A big push would be needed to get all the other things fitted - things like the brakes, pedal box and the pipe work, rollcage, the rest of the panels and the odd other useful item like engine and gearbox.  

 

Part of the trouble was that over the years rallying with the car I had thought of many improvements that I could make, if I ever had the time.  So that is what I was doing now, it wasnít just a matter of cleaning, painting and fitting the parts but nearly every part of the car was getting minor or in some cases major improvements made and there is nothing that takes more time than these myriad little changes.  Things like, an improved battery tray for the twin batteries in the boot, improved pipe work for the twin tanks and twin fuel pumps.  By the time the hillclimb came round I still only had one of the tanks fitted but then for a 1 mile blast up a hill I wasnít going to need a lot of fuel.  Even within the car much of the equipment and also switches etc were moved to make them easier to reach for both Navigator and Driver.  One of the good things about the safety rules for the hillclimb is that they are a little more lenient than those for a stage rally, so while I had to get the main part of the rollcage fitted, I didnít need to spend time fitting the new doorbars, nor the plumbed in fire extinguishers etc, I also reckoned that because the hill was a fairly smooth tarmac road I could leave the sumpguard and one or two other items until later in the summer.

 

At the same time as doing all this work I was also getting the boot, bonnet and doors all ready for painting, with the car being a rolling shell I was able to move her away from the area of the garage where I had set up my spray booth as this was now needed for painting these items.  They were once again being sprayed in Sebring Red apart from the top side of the bonnet which was sprayed matt black to match the wing tops etc.  I mean every self respecting Mk1 rally car must have a proper period matt black bonnet.  By now I was considering myself a bit of a dab hand at painting with this two pack and it was a fairly straight forward job painting these last panels.  In the next article in the series I shall at long last, get the engine back in the car and going again, well for a short time anyway, but thatís another story and itíll keep for another day!

 

All the best.

Neil Fletcher.

XTW 377F - Twin Cam
FMX 800J - RS1600
JIJ 9975 Ė Mexico
FIA 6386 Ė Mexico
Membership No. 1472

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