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S3 Body Removal for Painting


E55
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I’m hoping to find some 7 builders out there that may have some insight about removing/replacing the rivets and body from their S3. 

 

I am debating between the idea of painting the aluminum body while it is on the frame versus while it is detached from the frame then rivet the finished body back on. 

 

My plan is to powder coat the frame and all suspension bits, etc, so I would be removing the body anyway in order to do this. 

 

On my S3 it appears the most difficult area may be the very back where the body is rolled around the top tube and apparently hand fitted/ rolled around the bottom horizontal tube. 

 

If you have any experience with this I would really appreciate your comment. Thank you!

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You are not the only one interested in this topic. I do not have any experience but am very interested in learning from someone who has done it. Powder coating suspension parts is not a good idea. If something is cracked you can’t see it.

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My project was complete body off rebuild.  So I do have direct experience with this activity.  I did not powder coat the chassis as I was advised that the coating might crack over time and not hold up.  I had my chassis professionally  media blasted and then I had high quality epoxy primer and paint applied.  This seems to have worked very well.  As for painting the body and then applying to the chassis I do not see how that would work.  The body panels are quite fitted to the chassis and will require some slight forming even in re-application,  especially the rear section, not slight.  I do not see the paint withstanding that kind of treatment.  
Based on my experience if you need to remove the body to make repairs or paint the chassis I would very carefully do so and then re-apply and paint the body after it is all refitted.   

If interested you can watch my restoration video that may help give you some insight  
 

Good luck Tim.  

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Where can we watch your video? Did you replace any of your body panels? If you replaced any panels, how did you match the rivet holes in the frame. I assume the new panel did not have the holes already drilled. Could you remove and install the rear panel without cutting it?  Thank you for your response. 

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@Carlb.  All my exterior panels were replaced and the foot box was remade as well.  The floor and scuttle were retained.    If you watch the video closely you will see that all the holes in the chassis were braised closed.  I started with a bare frame so I did not remove the panels.  I do have the originals and they are cut.  My new panels do have a seam above the back wheels.   
 

@senc thanks for providing the video link.  
 

Tim

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@TMRL7thanks for making that video and sharing it. Where did you acquire the new body if you don’t mind me asking? Is the seam on your new panels something that you welded up? Did you have to fit/ fabricate the metal around the top of the frame or only around the bottom edges? Thanks for expanding on all of this. 
 

The body on my car is all one piece. I think the front sides will be fairly simple because there will be a lot of flex to remove them. It seems like just around the back bottom tube I will have to do some gentle bending to pop it off then the same way back on. Of course the more hands the better.

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@E55.   I acquired the side panels and the rear panel from GMT racing in CT. I used local expertise for other pieces and I made the simpler ones.  The side panels came formed but required some final fitting and the rear rounded area created.  The back came as a flat piece so that was professionally fit up as well.  I did all the riveting.  I have not yet had the seam welded up because it is nicely overlapped, very clean and completely hid by the rear wheel arch and the tonneau cover.   So not a huge priority at the moment.


if your car body is in reasonably good shape I would want to retain it if at all possible.    As was pointed out previously refilling of the existing chassis holes is an added bit of complexity.   If you keep your body panels that will be very easy to refit and match up the holes.  Clecos are very handy for the paneling process.   Good luck.  Tim 

 

Tim

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@TMRL7Thank you for all that Info. Your end result is a very beautiful product. 

i will have to look into Clecos.. luckily I have some friends with lots of riveting experience who are eager to help :)

 

if there are any others out there with body removal and reattachment experience please feel free to chime in. Thanks!

 

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There's a short section in this video showing how the factory fits the rear panel around the chassis, and welding the rear panel to the side panels.  It starts at 3:45 and goes to around 5:45.  I've never removed any panels from a Seven but I agree with what Tim said above. 

 

Also, some good info here on restoring a Seven: https://www.gglotus.org/ggtech/7-johnson-restore/seven1.htm  

 

And here: https://www.gglotus.org/ggtech/7-hamai-restore/projseve.htm

 

 

Edited by 11Budlite
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Thank you all for the information. IF I want to replace my rear panel, I am going to have to learn some good metal working skills. One thing I learned from the How it Was Made video is the carbon dash is glued on. I will not have to figure out how to drill it for rivets. 

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I wish there was a way to do this, but I have never heard of anyone successfully removing and reinstalling their aluminium skins (let alone fit painted panels!). If you went to the trouble of removing the skins to blast and recoat the chassis, you would naturally replace the aluminium panels with new, form them, weld at the 2 main joints, rivet to chassis and repaint in situ. 

 

Although this is an extreme example (by that I mean a very well used 7 from a very damp climate), you can see some footage of removing old skins here.

 

 

 

 

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@FerrinoThanks for that link to the Caterham rebuild. 
My skins are in good shape, just some minor body work and cosmetic things to be done. I was thinking it should be very doable to remove the skins and all aluminum to inspect the chassis, powder coat then re-rivet most if not all of the original aluminum back on using the same rivet holes. 

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I have no actual experience with removing the body panels, but I would think it would be extremely difficult to remove them without damaging them.  I don’t think it’s the kind of project that is considered “maintenance”.

 

Drilling out the rivets will enlarge the diameter of the whole in both the panel and the chassis.  Also, the flared part of the rivet will remain inside the chassis tubes, creating a giant rattle.  Although I doubt you could hear it, it has been cited as an area of concern on Blatchat.  

 

What year is your Seven?  Is there a reason you are concerned with the state of the chassis?  
 

Steve

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3 hours ago, bball7754 said:

I have no actual experience with removing the body panels, but I would think it would be extremely difficult to remove them without damaging them.  I don’t think it’s the kind of project that is considered “maintenance”.

 

Drilling out the rivets will enlarge the diameter of the whole in both the panel and the chassis.  Also, the flared part of the rivet will remain inside the chassis tubes, creating a giant rattle.  Although I doubt you could hear it, it has been cited as an area of concern on Blatchat.  

 

What year is your Seven?  Is there a reason you are concerned with the state of the chassis?  
 

Steve

 

I've had good luck with rivet removal using a tool:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005VR2L3Q/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1.

 

As for the bit of the rivet that winds up in the tubing, I'd recommend Waxoyl.

 

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@E55   Another resource for you is a deconstruction and rebuild series that had previously been available on Vimeo but is now on YouTube under Redux Garage.  This is a complete disassembly and rebuild done in 13 episodes.  Specifically in episode 3 he de-skins his car.   I will not tell you how it all plays out but there are some twists and turns to his original plan.   Hope you enjoy it, I have watched it a number of times over the years.   The link below is to episode #1      Tim 

 

 

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Just a thought on redrilling. When we reskinned my 1959 series 1 it was necessary since the old aluminium was corroded from all those years. But in drilling the new holes for Cleco allignment and then high strength rivets. I always had a great feeling having the drill bit meet substantial resistance indicating that the tube metal was still thick and in good shape. Of course this exposed a tiny bit of uncoated steel. But I never let the car get wet or out in the salt covered roads here in Pennsylvania winters. So I do not worry about exposed metal. Hope it goes well for you.

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