The MGA With An Attitude
Part D - Outer Body

Back to the body, go after repairs of fenders and other outer body panels, replacement of the outer rocker panel to match the door alignment. Remember again, doors first, then match up the rocker panels and then mate the fenders for proper door gaps. A huge part of appearance and impression of an MGA is fit and function of the doors, so take plenty of time to get it right.

Get all of the outer body panel repair work done so the body is test assembled before you even think about painting anything. Most of the possible quality of a final paint job starts with the quality of preparation, surface finishing and primer of the outer body panels. No cheating here. Do not bondo over any rust or cracks. Be sure the front grill fits well on the body nose before you transition from welding to priming. Ditto for all of the exterior lighting fixtures and trim parts that will touch the paint.

Most people, with enough time and patience, can do a decent job of outer body panel repair and surface finishing. This is mostly a matter of deciding early on that you want a good job, and don't leave big dents and lots of bondo. When you are getting close to final smooth, it is time to decide if your personal skills are good enough for your expectations and desired final results. Otherwise farm out the final surface finishing work and painting to a pro shop.

Up to this point, most of the restoration involves lots of grunt work and sweat equity, and not a lot of out of pocket expense. Figure a couple hundred dollars for gearbox parts, a hundred (or two) for front suspension and steering parts, a couple hundred dollars in chassis paint (unless you going for powder coating everything), a few hundred dollars in cutting, welding and cleaning supplies, and anywhere from a double saw buck ($20) to a thousand dollars for inner body sheet metal (depending on whether you buy panels of form your own). A body nose surround panel or a new fender would kill your tight budget. But if you do it right, you may have a rolling chassis less engine and a body in primer paint for under $5000 in restoration cost. The tab for me leading up to 1986 was about $2000 (and six hundred hours of grunt work).

After this you will need a fatter check book to pay for body painting, engine rebuilding, lots of interior and exterior trim parts required for reassembly (and I know I didn't mention side curtains), wheels and tires. A huge portion of the expense comes after the chassis is rolling and the body is in primer, when you are about to reassemble it.

While the body is out for paint you may have time to restore the heater box, pedal box and pedal parts, and anything else that goes into the engine bay or in the cockpit. Dash instruments and switches may want a touch up or repair. Dash panel, splash panels, lower body trim strips, fuel tank and mounting parts and other little bits need painting by someone. Decide what you will do about wheels (and tires later). Time to rebuild the seats? You really can't be everywhere at once.

Around the time that the body will be back from the paint shop, it may be time to disassemble the engine and send the component parts out for machine work. As long as you're dealing with a pushrod engine the machining work should be done in a few weeks, parts are readily available, and it can be reassembled promptly. Find a series of articles on my web site about engine rebuilding.

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