The MGA With An Attitude
PAINT OVER PIPING - Ahrrrruuuug ! - PT-115

At 06:19 AM 6/13/06, Bruce Hurlbut wrote:
>"I am considering buying a 58 MGA. Its a nice original, but its had a paint job about 4 years ago in which they painted over the fender welting."

Oops. I hope you like it the way it is. This is one of my nastiest concerns for the value of these cars.

>"The paint job still looks good but I would like to replace the welting. Can I remove the painted welting and replace it without going to the expense of repainting the whole car?"

Probably not.

>"I'm no paint and body man, but I don't mind expending some elbow grease. What's the best way to replace the welting and restore the paint around it."

I wouldn't be very optimistic about this. You might have the best chance if the new paint was very thin, but even then it's not a good situation. Since the piping was sitting on the old paint, the new paint does not run under the piping. The new paint would usually accumulate like a fillet bead between the body and the piping, and the paint would be built up to a level higher than the original paint level, which is where the bottom edge of the piping will lie. Additionally the new paint was most likely applied over a surface which was not perfectly clean in the corner close to the piping. Translation: paint over dirt. When you remove the piping the paint will most likely chip erratically in an area up to 1/4 inch away from the piping.

I suppose the best bet would be to start by running a razor knife along the sides of the piping to cut the piping paint loose from the body paint. Run the blade parallel to and flat against the body paint so as to cut away nearly all of the paint which is excess above the surface of the body paint. Since the edge of the piping head is below the surface of the new paint, you will be cutting against and probably into the piping head. If you point the tip of the blade slightly downward it may be reaching to a point approximately at the intersection of the piping head and web (underside of the piping head). You might (or might not) cut completely through the piping vertical web when doing this, so the piping head may in the end be removed, after cutting down both sides. Smoothest result might be obtained by running the side of the blade against the corner of the body panel.

What will be left would be a thin wedge from the edge of the piping head, about as thick as the new paint layer. But the paint will not cut smooth like butter (and maybe not the piping either), so expect to have some chipping of the paint. As pure speculation, maybe the only way to avoid chipping up the paint might be to use a heated knife blade that might be hot enough to melt the paint so it does cut like butter. Good luck with that issue. I wouldn't bet on success.

When you have the paint and piping head cut away the paint surface would be cut, scuffed, and probably chipped over an area wider then the new piping. This would require touch up, most likely needing to be sanded down first. So the next move is to loosen all of the fender bolts to move the fenders away from the body at least a half inch or so. This will involve removing front and rear bumpers. You would also need to remove the door striker plate and rubber snubbers and the shut face panel on the rear door post, as that piece covers the front edge of the rear fender.

When you have the fenders loose from the body with a small space in between, you can use a power sander to touch off anything which remains of the old piping edge and sand away the chipped paint area to feather the paint edge smooth all along the corners of the body panels. By this time you would probably be down to bare metal on the corners of the panels, so you would need to apply a little primer prior to repainting in this area. You may also encounter some rust in the joint, and decide at the time how deep you want to dig to clean up the area inside of the joint.

I believe the only chance you have of finishing this with a reasonably decent appearance would be if the prior paint was not too old (which it isn't) and you knew the paint type and color mixing code (which you probably don't) to be able to match the color.

By the time you do the primer and spray on some fresh color paint along the edges you would have painted at least an inch (or more) on each side of the joint. Then you get to buff it out and try to blend the new paint to the old paint and see if you can get a good enough match of both color and texture to be visibly acceptable. This might be possible if the prior paint had been wet sanded and buffed (to be very smooth), but that is very unlikely when it was painted over the piping. So trying to match the prior paint texture you would need to have a close match to any prior orange peel finish, and then do no wet sanding and maybe only a very light buffing to remove any over spray without removing the surface texture.

In any case this is not a paint free process. By the time you get that far you might decide the only way to get a good appearance is to repaint the whole car. If you try to remove the old piping without doing any painting, the paint chipping would most likely look worse than the existing paint over piping. My personal recommendation is to leave it the way it is until such time as you would be ready to repaint the whole car. If you don't like the current appearance, don't buy the car. I would tell anyone in the world not to ever paint over the piping, but that doesn't help after the fact. A lot of people have a short term view on life and only want it to look better today then it did yesterday with minimal work, and they don't care about who does what work in the future.

Because of these later repaint problems, it is my opinion that painting over piping should actually reduce the value of the car, below the value prior to painting. In other words, the car is worth more with the old paint and less the day after painting over piping. The reason is that paint over piping increases the amount of work required to repaint it (again). The only justification for painting over piping may be a small short term increase in value, but only for people who may be willing to drive it in that condition. This cuts a big piece out of the resale market arena by excluding some prospective buyers (maybe including yourself). If all buyers were properly informed of the problems, no one would buy the car unless the price was substantially reduced to compensate for the future costs which will be incurred to fix the problem. This being the case, the market value of the car should be less the day after painting over piping than the day before.

Unfortunately not everyone understands the problem, so there are still come people who think it's worth more after repainting with paint over piping, beginning with the guy who does it, and following with the next buyer. Because of this aberration in the market value, I don't think I would ever buy an MGA with paint over piping, as it would most likely sell for too much money. If you personally don't like it, and you would be determined to repair it as soon as you get the car, and you understand the cost of the repair, then you too will likely not see enough value in the car to buy it in an open market. The only way you get it cheap enough is if you steal it for less than market value, maybe through a non-advertised sale. If you could buy it cheap enough, then you can add the purchase price plus the cost of repair, and maybe not exceed the finial market value.

There is an additional concern here. Paint over piping usually means that the body has never been removed from the frame for cleanup and repaint underneath. Any MGA which will exist in the slightest corrosive environment will have to have a full body off restoration at least once. If the car has never been "restored" in this manner, and you buy it as is, then you get to do it. With that in mind, the currently existing outer paint is only worth as much as its current appearance for as long as you continue to drive it as is. When it's time for the restoration, any existing paint isn't worth a penny, and the more paint there is on the car the more problem and expense it is to remove it.

So the remaining question is, can you buy it cheap?

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