This ’72 Spitfire MkIV was in a reasonable state when we found her, with much of the hard work done. The chassis was solid, the suspension clean and operational and the brakes had been refurbished, at least at the wheels.

The body was solid with good shut lines and most of the paint was in grey primer. Unfortunately though the rear wheel arches had been widened substantially. It had been done quite well apart from the fact that they were quite different from one side to the other!

The car was without its glass, door fittings, interior or any wiring! There were some boxes of spare parts including the missing glass but most was of poor quality and not salvageable.

The Mk IV as found

The first job was to get the engine running and the brakes, clutch and gears operating properly. Once we knew it was mechanically sound we could then prepare it for paint.

A clutch master cylinder, slave cylinder and new hydraulic lines were added together with a new brake master cylinder and new pipework to the wheels.

New clutch and brake masters
The SU carburettors were a bit of a state

The SU carburettors and inlet manifold had seen better days but were serviceable. With new gaskets, valves, springs, oil, pipework and air filters followed by a good clean and polish the carbs looked great. They’ll be balanced later.

The SU carburettors after a service
Serviced carbs fitted to the car

The next stage was to fit a brand new wiring loom. That then enabled the engine to be turned over. However the distributor looked tired and unsurprisingly there was no spark at the plugs. With most projects we generally replace points with electronic ignition and so fitted a brand new electronic distributor and the appropriate 12v coil. Unfortunately there was still no spark!

We ran a bench rest on the new distributor (you can see a video of how we did this here: Identifying Electronic Ignition Problem) and found that it was duff! With a replacement fitted we got a spark straight away and with fuel in the float bowls, water hoses linked to the heating system and a full radiator, the engine ran for the first time in many years albeit a little on the fast side. Adjustments were therefore made to the carburettors to get the idle speed right.

Fuel did not come through from the fuel pump so it was removed and inspected. It’s an early mechanical type with a diaphragm and all looked good. Moving the rocker arm did produce a shot of air from the outlet which indicated it should work! While it was off the car it was connected with a short pipe close to the fuel tank. The rocker arm was then moved again and fuel began to spurt out.

So now we knew the pump was good and that there was enough fuel in the tank. It was therefore likely to be the fuel line. Part of it was found to be wider than the rest and made a bad fit with the copper fuel line under the car. It was allowing air to be sucked in instead of fuel. With that replaced, fuel began to come through when the engine was turned over.

While this was going on the grubby and torn seats were sent off to a recovering specialist. They now look like new.

Recovered seats look like new

When turning over the starter motor positive supply cable got extremely hot and even started to melt the insulation wrapped around it. The motor was swapped with another and problem solved.

With the engine running sweetly it was time to look at the body and those widened rear wings. We have no real issue with the widening per se. They could have been used on our Fast Road Spitfire project perhaps, but even though they’ve been done very well, with very little surface filler, it looks like each one has been done by a different person! They’re quite different. So, off they must come.

On the left hand side we cut along the top of the widened arch where it met the wing, checking first that there would be enough metal left to weld new arches to.

The wing was then taken down to metal in the area where the new arch would be welded.

Meanwhile on the right hand side it was found that the arch was positioned higher up the wing than the left and cutting it off in the same way would leave nothing to weld the new arch to. We may therefore need to fold down some of the widened arch to form part of the wing and then weld the new arch to that.

Back to the LHS. Further measurements led to more of the old paint being removed and then the bare metal was treated with a rust prohibitor. This was just to keep it rust free prior to welding and also to keep rust from forming on the area of metal that’ll be covered by the new wheel arch. This will be painted with a primer too.

More of the horrible widened left hand sill was removed but some horrors were soon revealed! Several layers of metal, welded pretty haphazardly, and lots of concrete! Well, it looked like concrete as it had obviously been poured into the sills and was a solid mass all along the sill but it attracted a magnet so did have metal in it. Very weird indeed! Anyway, it all had to come out so we could get back to a solid base onto which we could weld new metal.

Layers and layers of horrible metal
More horrors
Concrete??

With all the concrete removed and the layers of dodgy metal cut out we could treat the solid stuff with a rust inhibitor before welding on new metal to create a new inner sill end, being careful not to damage or melt the wiring loom.

New patch for inner sill
New patch protected with a thick sealing paint

With the inner sill now solid it was time to add the new wheel arch and sill end. The key to welding is welding good, clean metal to good, clean metal and if you don’t have that then keep cutting until you do! I’d previously bought a new outer sill end as well as the wheel arch and so it was reasonably straight forward to weld on the new parts. The joins were then given a thin layer of filler which was sanded smooth.

New wheel arch in place

The whole wing was then painted with etch primer and then filler primer which will be sanded again later prior to when the entire car get it’s first coat of 2k primer.

Wing painted with etch primer
Filler primer will be sanded later

The right hand side was similarly awful. Investigations found the same magnetic concrete in the sill and a very rusty sill strengthener – this is the panel in between the inner and outer sill sections. To replace the sill strengthener I removed the outer sill and ground off the rusty remains of the strengthener.

Once the remains of the rusty old strengthener had been removed I was able to weld in a new one before painting and then adding a new outer sill.

With a thin skim of filler over the welds the outer sill was then painted with black etch primer.

Of course all this work to the sills meant redoing the door gaps. Thankfully we’re getting rather good at this now and really good door gaps were achieved!

Next we needed to sort the right hand rear wheel arch and unlike on the left hand side, I decided to replace the whole wing and not just the wheel arch.

I did try to use a wing from a spare Spitfire 1500 body I had but the wing was way to rusty. A new one is around £350 but I found one on ebay for £150 although it had been stored badly and was covered in surface rust. It looked solid though and prior to having been left outside for a while, was brand new and still had part number stickers on it. It was only an hour away and so I offered £75 which was accepted. Excellent!

With the wing back in the shop I treated the back side to lots of rust converter/prevention. It actually wasn’t that bad at all on the back. The outside though will need sanding back to metal but that’ll only take a few minutes with a DA sander. For now I needed to get it to fit the body.

The shape of the wing was perfect but the inner wing of our Spitfire had to be trimmed down several times to allow the wing to fit properly. You will remember that this car came with widened rear arches and the inner wings were also much wider than standard. Eventually though the wing fit perfectly and was welded into place.

Our ’72 MkIV Spitfire is now ready for final prepping before paint! She was given a thorough wash and will wait in line for the paint booth to be finished.

The restoration continues……..