Sanding filler

So the Mini’s home, and we’ve made an isolation chamber for it. I’ve plumbed in the extractor from the sandblasting cabinet in the hopes that it’ll create a bit of negative pressure and keep the dust inside- but I’m not really expecting it to work.

Time to start sanding…

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Being able to work on the shell on any angle is super handy. We’re using long sanding boards and trying not to sand in the same direction too much, but flipping the car upside down should keep any ripples to a minimum. In theory.

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Sanding back through the white filler gradually reveals the black epoxy underneath- along with all the subtle (and not so subtle) dents and ripples in the panels.

It’s summer time, and gets hot quickly in the plastic bubble. With the Tyvek suit on I have about an hour before I’m sweating, and I don’t want to get the filler wet. The dust gets everywhere even with the gloves and mask on- though the plastic tent actually seems to be keeping it away from the rest of the workshop.

Motivation is difficult to find and I’m managing a couple of hours a day at the most. This may take some time.


Upholstery time!

Time to get started on the upholstery. We’re sticking to the original pattern, but using leather instead of vinyl, because we can.

First, though, Brian’s going to practise making pleats:

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We stripped down one old seat cover, and used it as a pattern.

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Then the backrest covers.

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Finish off the door skins and rear seat covers and we’re done!

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See how easy that was? yeah, right.

Seat frames

While I’m sanding the body, Brian’s going to work on the upholstery- which means we need to fix up the seat frames before the workshop gets covered in sanding dust.

Stripping the seats revealed a pair of mismatching seat frames- one has the original rubber diaphragm base and rubberised strap backrest, the other is a later model with wire springs everywhere.


The rubber diaphragm  makes for the most comfortable base, but wire springs make the most supportive backrest. What to do?!


It’s alive! Also, heated seats, because heated seats are cool- and the heater is unlikely to do much.

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Both seat frames now match. A coat of paint and we’re ready to go:

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Epoxy primer and filler.


Choosing a painter is trickier than we thought. We contacted a number of painters; Half of them never called back, so that was easy. Some of the remainder were reluctant to take on a full restoration respray from bare metal, as it wasn’t as profitable as insurance work. In the end, we had 4 painters who came to visit, and all of them seemed enthusiastic and knowledgeable- except for one who either had social anxiety, or had inhaled too much thinner. One of the painters was *too* knowledgable and a Mini enthusiast, and seemed a little disparaging of some of the non-standard features we’ve incorporated. So it came down to two painters, and they were both smart, enthusiastic, and came well recommended- but Sin from Benge Spraypainting and Restoration won us over when he said “So, how much of the work do you want to do yourself?” (The answer is: “whatever makes it cheaper without compromising the final result”)

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Over at the paint shop we had to scrub the bare steel with Glasurit 360-4 metal cleaner to make it properly clean. It took 3 days, 20 metres of 3M scrubbing pad, a giant sack of clean rags, 2 litres of metal cleaner, and a couple of expensive but excellent respirators. An amazing amount of black gunk came out of the steel, and left it pale and glowing like pewter. Gorgeous! Now let’s hide it with black epoxy primer:

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Apparently, the modern way of restoring a car is to use spray-on polyester filler, then sand it all back until the panels are smooth. We let the primer bake for a few days before scuffing it, masking, and applying the polyester filler.

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Masked up and ready to spray…

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Chanel, sweetie. Now I just have to sand it all back off again. Shouldn’t be too hard…

Radiator shroud modification because insanity.

With the Mini ready for paint, I had some time to deal with a few minor items, like the inability to remove the radiator without pulling the entire engine and subframe first.

This is not normal for a Mini, but our Mini is hardly normal. I’ve chosen only the best performing parts to use with the radiator, but it seems the combination of plastic fan, super 2-core radiator, Mk1/2 radiator cowl, and single piece mk3 fan shroud result in not enough clearance to remove the radiator, no matter how you try.

The solution is to butcher… err, modify the Mk3 shroud, effectively turning it into a split mk1/2 shroud, but with a more efficient shape.


You’re not removing the fan through that tiny gap.



In fact, the fan belt is going to be a challenge.


No room for spanners in here either.


So: modification. I’m going to split the shroud at the top. These two pegs I’ve added to the bracket will keep it together while it’s in use.


no turning back now.


The bottom outlet needs to get past the shroud, so I’ve cut it here.


Adding a flange so we can bolt it back together.


like so.


You can even get at the bolt from the front of the engine. Sort of. Which is about as good as it gets with a Mini.