The body arrives

2nd August 2005

I cannot believe it's been nearly a year since I first visited Pilgrim. It seems such a short time ago that I was poking around the factory cars and asking all those newbie questions that I'm sure Tony is asked by every new customer. It also means I've got just 3 and a hlaf weeks before I get married - eek! So much for having the car ready in time! Although I've been building this car for a lot longer than I was planning to I don't feel like it's dragging on and I haven't as yet lost the enthusiasm I started with, which I guess must be a good thing.

This week marks the start of the next phase of the build - the arrival of the body. A year of hard mechanical graft has finally given way to making this thing actually look like a cobra. Finally I can start looking through the catalogues of chrome exhausts and dash trimmings with a view to actually buying something.

Due to staff holidays, my body was delivered by Tony himself on Thursday. I was waiting in for him to arrive from Small Dole when I saw a cobra slide past the top of our back wall. Out front Tony had arrived in the flat bed with my bodyshell on the back. I directed him to my garage up the road and we proceeded to unload the body into it. I had rearranged the junk in the garage so there was room to put the body on one side with the chassis on the other. Hopefully that'll make the initial bits easier, though it does mean there's now a lot less room to move around!

To my surprise, Tony was very interested in my rolling chassis and started poking about, looking at the work I had completed. As it turns out he still knows his stuff and was able to give me a few pointers to help with the SVA later on. He even showed me how to adjust the clutch properly which was a real bonus! Unfortunately a couple of pieces had been left off the delivery, namely the rear inner rings and the inner sills. Tony promised to send them on ASAP and left me to my new toys.

The first job preparing the body is fitting the bonnet. Unfortunately I hadn't realised the bonnet hinges were a separate item I had to order. A phone call to Pilgrim and they are on order, but while I'm waiting I decided to set about attacking the flash lines.

The flash lines are caused where the different parts of the mould butt together and the gel coat seeps between them creating a ridge on the body. This has to be sanded back and smoothed over. As I am having mine painted, the manual says you can use an orbital sander with 280 grit paper to do the job. Being extremely aware that I could easily ruin the gelcoat and cost myself a load more in time at the paint shop for someone to rectify any mistakes I decided to err on the side of caution and bought a selection pack of wet & dry paper that started at 400 grit and went up to 1200.

Starting on the front wing I removed the worst of the flash line by breaking off the excess gel coat with a cloth wrapped around my hand and then using a Stanley knife blade to scrape back the line until it was almost flush with the body. Starting with 400 grit (dry) I sanded the line back until the ridge was gone then using wet 600, 800 and finally 1200 grit paper I progressively brought the body back to a smooth finish. Actually, it turned out to be very easy, although I still wouldn't feel confident bringing power tools anywhere near it. The price of avoiding power tools was one and a half hours of sanding and a sore arm to do just one wing. Another hour and a half later and a fairly dead arm and I had tackled the other wing. So far so good, the body was beginning to take shape.

Last night I tackled the flash line across the body where the windscreen will sit. This was much more difficult because the contour of the body meant I couldn't get the knife blade to scrape as much of the line off. Consequently it took nearly 2 hours to sand the line flat and work down through the grades of paper to achieve a smooth finish. Although it is now smooth, I can feel a slight dip where the line was and I obviously over sanded it slightly. Hopefully the paint shop will sort that with a bit of high-build primer, but the more I work on the body the more I'm glad I am having it painted. Trying to look after the finish knowing that any mistakes can't be hidden would be a nightmare! On top of that, I've come across several places where sanding has revealed darker spots of colour and in a couple of cases where the gel coat is so thin, I've sanded it back to just fibreglass resin which leaves a little window of light in the body. Fine for me, it'll all be covered, but I sincerely hope that Pilgrim takes a little more care over the coloured finishes.

Once the bonnet hinges have arrived and I've fitted them it'll be time to try the body on the car. There are a few jobs that need doing before it can be fixed in place. The first of which is sorting the mountings for some harnesses. I've decided to go for 3-point harnesses rather than sealtbelts as I feel they suit the car better, but they are slightly trickier to fit. The top mounting point on each needs to be reinforced by means of a steel bar running from under the body to the chassis. This will require temporarily removing the petrol tank to get access to necessary bits. I need to choose and order some harnesses too.

I've been looking into lights too. Although I'm not aiming for an exact replica, I would like to use some original touches. To this end I've decided to try and fit the original style indicator and brake lamps front and rear rather than the much cheaper mini-style lamps. Unfortunately I discovered today that the front indicators I want are not SVA friendly so it looks like I'll have to buy some cheap mini-style ones and replace them later. Better finding out now than at the test I suppose.

Still waiting on the exhaust headers, hopefully Pilgrim will have some news this week. As the wedding approaches the car is going to take a back seat for several weeks so postings may be a bit few and far between now until mid September.

The body - in all its
grey, unfinished glory

Not much room in the garage

Side profile

One wing, smooth
as a baby's bum

And the other, an
hour and a half later

Tricky to remove,
but looking good

Glad it's being painted!