Both sides done, sills undersealed, and even the black graphics painted back on where they were lost to all the welding work. The graphics are normally vinyl, I just used satin black paint as that'll do.
Had a tidy up of everything, refitted some more interior, and then spotted a little glint of something in the boot. Odd, I hadn't put anything shiny in there.
That's because what's shiny there is daylight coming through a tiny hole next to one of the exhaust hanger captive nuts. It's not a big repair, I just wish I'd spotted it sooner when I had all the tools out and it would have been less hassle to sort out. All the other orangey rust you see there is mostly iron filings from the arch replacement mixed in with a little rainwater that got into the boot at some point over the last few weeks and months.
I'll unbolt the exhaust hanger, clean up this area, and weld up the hole since it both needs doing and I'm pretty sure that it'll be a problem at MoT if I don't do it.
That's another go at the bonnet today. This is actually a better finish than I got before, I've been experimenting with different methods for this paint and it turns out the cheapest and laziest option gives the best result. Nice brushes, dressing out, thinning the paint... these have all caused issues. Cheap gloss rollers and using the paint straight out of the tin gave the best results so presumably that's how this paint is designed to be used. I'm very okay with that.
Unfortunately, the fluffy mini roller that gave the nicest finish on my small sample ended up shedding once I got going on the larger panel so I've got to flat the bonnet back again and redo it with the foam rollers (which are even cheaper at about 50p each).
I do have a few trim holes to weld up, and a little bit of finishing work to do on the driver's side door bottoms, thankfully it's barely anything at all since the serious rot is all gone on this car now. I'm not aiming to elimate every little imperfection on the bodywork, just the stuff that's an issue like the arch lips, the driver's side door bottoms I didn't fully finish, and the one dent where an alternator fell off a shelf and hit a door a few years ago. We're aiming for good enough, because that's all I need.
A friend did give me a really nice polishing machine which will make the final tidy up a lot easier and I already know this paint wet sands really nicely once it's hardened. Follow that up with a decent wax and it should be an adequate paint job for years to come. It'll certainly be good enough for me because I can't see me being able to afford a nice paint job any time soon.
Another Princess update. I had planned to do some more paint and got sidetracked by doing a 'quick bit of welding'. Namely, I wanted to weld up all the trim holes I'm not using, and the mirror holes in the front doors.
Got rid of the wrong set of holes for the spoiler - by which I mean I kept the holes that should be there for the spoiler, and welded up the holes I'd drilled in the wrong place previously - in the boot lid, and welded up the original badge holes. Bit of bodywork still to go here, it's just flatted back welds and primer, no filler or top coat yet.
Same deal with the front doors, all of the various holes for the various mirrors the car has worn are now welded up, bit of primer, no filler. This went a lot easier than I was expecting, but will need filler before top coat.
Had another go at the door bottoms on the drivers side to get the shape a bit better. Ideally, they need someone with better skills and tools than me to do them properly, they've never been entirely the right profile even before the rot was chopped out, so it's all guess work really. Still, they'll take filler much better now and perfect panels gaps look weird on BL stuff anyway. Again, no filler, just welded repairs (from ages ago) and paint here because I never actually got chance to do this job properly.
Finally, I poked at the 'little rust hole' in the front passenger wing on the arch lip and ended up rebuilding pretty much the entire lip. Weirdly, the return was in pretty good shape, it was just the vertical face that was shot so I carefully snipped out the vertical face, cut some sections to suit, and welded those in. This wing has already been repaired by me before some years ago and that was on top of repairs it had come to me with even further in its past. Ideally, it could do with a new wing on this side but they're very, very hard to find now. Fortunately I do have a new wing to go on the other side which currently sports a wing made up of at least three different wings and is predictably starting to bubble anew. As with the other jobs, no filler here, just welding and primer.
It's too hot to do any more on this today. I've done my penance, drank enough water to launch a cruise ship, and got sunburn on the only bit of my neck my PPE didn't cover. I've got some repairs to do on the driver's side rear arch, the lower edge of the drivers side sill, and one small hole in the very bottom of the passenger side front wing. Then it should all be finished (for now) on the welding front bar fitting that new wing I need to get in paint before it can go on the car.
When it's a bit cooler I'll tackle the filler work and sanding prep for top coat. I did learn that when I was moving the car about there's a knocking noise coming from a the rear passenger side which I suspect is something brake related. It's too hot to investigate now, but the knocking gets faster when you go faster and stops completely when you press the foot brake, so I'm thinking it's something in the drum that's out of adjustment or broken. I'll investigate when it's a bit cooler outside.
It's bloomin' 'ot out so I didn't do much beyond an investigation, just getting the car on an axle stand was quite enough for me.
I have found these things: - Split rear hydraulic flexi brake hose, looks to have only gone very recently, it's still quite clean - Drum spins freely even though the handbrake is applied. This might be adjustment issue though - Back of drum is dry, no sign of brake fluid leaking from inside, so cylinder is probably okay - Rubber part of axle mounting bush is totally worn out. This probably isn't the knocking though since the knocking is affected by rotational speed of the wheel and application of the foot brake - Some underseal has come off revealing what I hope is just surface rust
I then did some talking to camera stuff for a future video and found a piece of fibreglass that had come off the front valance around the drainhole, revealing some rust. Further prodding shows the front valance where it meets the crossmember is crusty in a few spots so will need some localised repairs. It's a terrible spot to have to do repairs, I'm not looking forward to it, but needs must.
So, a quick brake investigation has resulted in a whole new list of things to fix. We'll see how I get on with that, the weather being what it is means progress is likely to be incredibly slow.
I'm going to get caught up on some write ups here, temperature in the house is just about tolerable and I need to occupy myself with something and this seems as good a thing as any.
Fitting wing mirrors to the Princess. I've had various mirrors on this car as long term viewers will know and of all of them, these black aftermarket wing mirrors have been the best of the lot in terms of visibility and aesthetics as a combination. The Honda Acty mirrors were easily both the best to see with and the ugliest on the car, while the original Tex branded mirrors were perhaps the most well suited cosmetically while also being the most useless mirrors I've ever had on a car.
When I started this job it was pretty cold and wet, there's never really good weather to do this sort of thing in so I just got on with it.
Gather my tools up which comprised a cordless drill, some masking tape, a pen, and some sockets for the mirror's fixings.
On the passenger side wing there were still the nubbins from where I'd ground back but not filled the welded up holes from when the wing mirrors were previously on the car. The driver's side didn't have this guide to help me since that wing was replaced with a Frankenstein's monster of a thing made up of several wings. Masking tape deployed to give me something to write on and to prevent the drill bit from skipping since I still don't have a centre punch for marking drill holes.
Start drilling and think the drill bit is blunt, check the battery and find out that actually it's got nearly no charge in it. Recharge the battery and try again.
Then inspect the mirrors and find a couple of the nuts are rust-welded onto the bolt threads so spend some time cutting through the bolt threads after trying every other method, and then install new fixings.
Dry fit the mirror into the wing and decide I'm happy to once again have these back on the car. I should never have second-guessed myself with these, they fit in with what I'm doing really well and I like using them, so I should have more faith in my own vision.
Next job is to remove the arch liners. These things are a pain. If you leave them in they do protect the nose end of the wing from stuff building up, but they do nothing to protect the other end of the wing. They also destroy the arch lip whenever you try and remove them. They're held in with several screws.
Once the liner has been fought out, access to put the nuts onto the floating captive bolts in the mirrors is possible. These mirrors aren't sprung loaded and you adjust them by pushing on the glass which is mounted on a ball socket inside the mirror housing. Usefully, they don't stick out further than the car's widest point which you'd think would be a problem for seeing behind you, but with them so far down the wing it's really not an issue. They're also pretty large for wing mirrors, so the field of vision is surprisingly good in them.
Looking up inside the wing you can see the spreader plate that's used to keep the mirrors from jiggling - they really don't vibrate at all, surprisingly - and I gave all this a coat of paint to protect it from rusting, I just didn't record that bit.
It's not really that easy to show what it's like to use them when you're in the car, the camera isn't really looking at the mirrors the same way you do when you're driving, but they really are great. The big advantage is I can make a quick glance at either mirror and see what's going on behind me without really taking my eyes off the road in front, unless I'm doing over-the-shoulder checks of course because it always pays to be vigilant. The one thing these mirrors do best of all out of all the mirrors I've had on this car is almost totally elimate the C pillar blind spot which is massive due to the 70s styling.
With both mirrors fitted it felt a bit more like my car again. These definitely aren't to everyone's taste, and that's okay, I'm not building this car for anyone but me so I'm the only person I need to satisfy with it.
As part of the massive parts haul I got from another Maestro enthusiast, I ended up with a much better wing than the one on the car, in a slightly different shade of red. Removing and refitting Maestro wings is pretty easy, as it goes, so here is how that goes. First, unbolt all the bolts along the top wing rail.
Then open the front door and fiddly about where the A pillar meets the wing until you can get a tool of some sort on the bolt crammed in there, once loose undo it by hand so you stand a chance of getting bolt and tool out of the gap without having to remove the door.
Undo the bolt holding the wing to the sill, which in this instance came undone surprisingly easily and without drama.
Then remove the front indicator which you do by unplugging the bulb holder and then pulling on that metal loop which is the retaining spring. The whole unit will then fall out so make sure you're ready to catch it.
Then you can either unbolt the bumper corner from the wing or, because there's enough wiggle room with everything, pull the cap off the bumper. It's a different approach for plastic bumper cars.
Then undo the three bolts holding the wing to the front valance, the top one isn't easy to see and you pretty much have to undo it blind.
Finally, disconnect the side repeater and you're away. I learned since recording the video that the side repeater is supposed to have a tab you push in that frees the lens from the wing, mine was dirt-welded in place so I opted to disconnect the bulb holder from the lens instead as that was easier in this instance.
With the wing off, you can see where the bolts for the front valance go a lot easier. There's been some sort of damage repair on this corner, nothing too serious since it's only affected the squishier bits of the panels rather than the structural stuff lower down, so I'm not concerned about any of it.
There's an interesting repair to the inner wing to make it the correct shape. I'm actually sort of impressed by this. In an ideal world I'd have a section of Maestro to replace this bit with, it looks like they couldn't quite get the original shape back and just sort of made the best of what they'd got and honestly, everything still lines up reasonably well with the outer panels on so again, not something I'm worrying about.
The paint on the wing I'd removed was a bit odd on the leading corner, I couldn't really figure it out with it on the car beyond being able to see it had definitely had some work done. Once removed from the car, what had been done was much clearer and, frankly, pretty impressive. Perhaps for the person who did this getting a replacement wing just wasn't that easy or cost effective so this is the route they took instead. More on this later.
The replacement wing is in much better condition, very minimal paint damage, and no dents or rust problems. It should also tell me how straight things really are since it's the shape it should be.
The only thing of note that jumped out on fitting the wing was the edge of the valance being deformed. I did suspect it would be, so I need to spend a bit of time gently massaging this back to the correct profiles. The metal on the Maestro is very thin, as cars of this era tend to be, so it's really easy to get things out of shape and back into shape.
The black trim line is different too, though the panel gap is reasonable enough considering the tab on the bottom of this wing is missing. I did trim the tab off the other wing and then put it Somewhere Safe so of course I've not been able to find it to put it back on. It's not vital, apparently the MG Maestros don't have this tab because of the bodykit and I've not noticed any issues with this wing flapping about or catching the door.
Happily, the fitment of the wing is pretty good. It aligns with the bonnet much better and while there's certainly some adjustment to be had to make things better still, it's good enough for what this car is and better than it was, so I'm happy with that. I don't even mind the red being slightly wrong, the paint on this car isn't fantastic so it just sort of blends in with the survivor look of the whole thing.
That wing then. My working theory based on the damage seen is that something hit the front corner of the car quite high up, squashing the wing and bonnet down, and breaking the headlight bracket (you can see the repair to it in one of the pictures above). Perhaps a lorry reversed into the car or something like that, the damage that's been repaired wouldn't really take a lot of force to cause. Instead of buying a new wing, whoever repaired this (and it looks to be an old repair) spent the time to chop out the whole front upper corner of the wing and weld in a new piece. They also spent the time to beat out the surrounding metal work as best they could and even cut new slots for the indicator unit guides to go into to keep everything aligned. In addition to the work on the wing, there's a lot of crude panel beating on the inner wing at the upper corner and that unusual bolted-and-welded bridge repair. It's all quite impressive really, it's an awful lot of time to effect a repair like this and whoever did it must have really liked the car to invest the effort.
Right, needed to do a 'quick rear brake inspection' on the Princess. Found some issues.
No bother, I've got new shoes, just need a spring set. Only nobody seems to list a spring set (had this problem last time I did the rear brakes a good 8 years ago or so) and spent a while trawling the internet until I learned Jensen Healey Mk2 uses the same Lockheed rear drums, but slightly different shoes. Ordered a set of springs and they're close enough that they should match. Bear in mind the springs in the drum are slightly different to what came out because I couldn't find an exact match back then, it's a palaver.
Anyway, popped the shoes off and was about to pop the new shoes and hardware on when...
Great. Princess rear drum backing plates are NLA. I've contacted the only seller of any I can find to double check the ones they have are better condition than the ones I've got (second hand parts, not great photos) and I hope they're okay. I can't really repair the ones I've got because they've gone so thin around the rust crack it would need substantial rebuilding.
I'm also still trying to find axle mounting metalastic blocks which used to be easy to get hold of and now seem to have all vanished. Naturally, I don't have any spares either. The joy of running a rare old car. Back on the last few bits the Maestro needs I guess, now the heatwave has broken.
I know they're a 9" Lockheed drum. I don't know which model exactly, other than it seems to be shared with Jensen Healey Mk2 and Vauxhall Viva HC. I did end up looking at lots of different wheel drums trying to find some parts binnery, but it seems the usual suspects didn't share brakes with the Princess. Hardly surprising since the front brakes are Princess only too and only survived because of the efficacy of the front calipers meaning lots of kit cars ended up with them so there's now decent aftermarket support.
Maxi, 1800 (Landcrab), and Marina front drums might work if I could find any. Marina being rwd, the drums don't look like they'd be a straight swap on the rear.
MGB has smaller drums than the Princess, and slimmer. Maestro drums are smaller in every dimension.
The seller of the back plates has got back to me, hopefully a deal can be sorted on that to see me out of a spot. It did get me thinking about what might be involved to put disc brakes on the back of the Princess, that might actually be an easier route and discs are generally easier to deal with than drums. I just don't know how I'd go about doing the conversion or what parts are really needed, I don't want to make the brakes too good since of course the car doesn't have things like ABS to help with stopping quickly so more research would be needed for that.
Easiest solution would be to get some sheet steel & make a new centre peice - once made cut a square/circle (or any shape you fancy) out of the backplate (after careful measurements) and weld the new bit in.
I've actually considered repairing the ones on the car just so I have a spare set in the future, you never know with these things after all. Depending on the outcome with the seller of the second hand backing plates will depend what I end up doing.
I've been making plans for the Maestro's replacement. This isn't a rapid plan, I've been giving this a lot of thought over the last year or so and being realistic about my needs and wants from a car. What I need, more than anything, is a very basic car I can repair myself and that is very well supported for parts from mechanical, to electrical, to bodywork.
Nothing I own fits this bill. The Maestro you'd think would be pretty good but honestly the panel support for it is pretty curse word. Some of the mechanical things are Maestro specific and things like the exhaust I learned are pretty difficult to find, especially if you need one in a hurry. Overall it makes up for it by being a very reliable little car so doesn't really ask for much.
The Princess has definitely got into the territory of being a bad choice for a daily driver now. It's not that the car can't do it, or even that the rust is a problem (the rust is always going to be a problem, whatever I do), it's that the parts you need to fix stuff when it does inevitably break is getting really hard to source now. There's almost no aftermarket support for it and really, it's pretty annoying when something breaks that I just can't find.
I'm getting fed up of being grounded because I keep running weird old guff. So, to solve this, I'm going to run some ordinary old guff instead.
After a huge amount of research and consideration, an assessment of my own needs and skills, and what I'm willing to tolerate I've come to the conclusion that what I need as a daily drive is a Morris Minor.
The fuel economy and safety is about in line with what I'm used to. I rarely go over 60mph since I hardly ever go on the motorway these days. I only really need to haul me and a bit of shopping about. I'm not shy of rust repair and at least the Minor has pretty much every panel you could ever want available (to varying degrees of fit and quality, but it's still better than the other cars I have), and there's a huge aftermarket for mechanical and cosmetic upgrades. It's not fast or fancy, and that suits me just fine.
The most surprising thing is the cost of Minors. While the Maestro has steadily been increasing in value, Minors have just stayed sort of cheap. £2,500 gets you a tatty one that's usable but not quite a project, £4-6,000 gets you a nice one ready to use, and £8k+ gets one that's too nice for the likes of me. Since I only want a saloon, and I don't care how many doors, rather than one of the more exotic body options that helps keep the price down. I do want a later A series car rather than the very early sidevalves (although they do have prettier interiors) just to make life easier and I don't want one that's been off the road forever or has galloping rot underneath.
As with all things, it'll take time. I'm keeping my eye on the market as I did with the Lanchester, and I've already seen quite a few reasonable candidates locally come and go. My capital is mostly locked up in the Maestro, in an ideal world I'd do a swap or part exchange with the Maestro for a Minor of equivalent condition. Something tatty but solid would be perfect and I can improve as I go.
I reckon if I budget £2-4k I can get a reasonable Minor I can use straight away. However, I won't be buying anything until after I've finished all the jobs on the Maestro I want to do so it's likely to stick around for another year or two yet. There's still shedloads of Minors out there, they don't show any signs of going away any time soon, and they're even getting electric converted so I reckon it's a fairly safe bet.
I’ve always liked Minors. Try getting in and out of a four door though, before you spend your money; the door aperture is pretty narrow by modern standards. If you don’t have anyone regularly getting in the back, the bigger doors of the two door variants make them much easier to live with.
I’ve said it before, but it’s really hard keeping up with more than one project, even when they’re all runners. Coping with three in bits is a real tall order.
My worst worry about dying is my wife selling my stuff for what I told her it cost...
I'm genuinely hoping the Minor helps with that issue. Lanchester is dormant for now, so doesn't really count. Princess should be further on than it is, the rear brakes issue threw a spanner in the works. Maestro really doesn't need much of anything, I've just been lacking the time and motivation to get it done.
Appart from rust minors are great they drive really well, and virtually every part is available, usually quicker than for many a modern.
As far as rust goes check very carefully, floors, sills etc are easy to check but door pillars, inner wings spring hangers, front chassis legs, door shuts aroud the roof and the join between the roof and rear panel can rot badly and not be obvious, take a look at my thread on the minor owners club forum if you want to see a real horror story. If you need any cars looking over up in essex I'm happy to give them an initial look over for you.
I've been binge watching Youtube vids of people getting to grips with Minors, some for the first time, some as just part of their regular job. The amount of problem documentation is great and it makes it clear that these are an incredibly easy car to deal with. Underseal seems to be a thing to be very aware of as it's used to hide a lot. Funnily enough, time with the Lanchester has helped since it has a similar construction (wood aside) and similar rust traps so I'm a little bit better prepared than I expected.
The really nice thing is how easy it seems to be to get someone to do work on a Minor for you. I've always had issues getting garages to work on my cars because they're weird and parts supply is terrible. With the Minor, there's companies that only do Minor work, know the cars inside and out, and could end up saving me the trouble of doing any jobs I don't especially want to do and that's pretty magical.
I do have an ideal spec in mind but I'm not wedded to it because it all depends what's out there when I have money in my hand. Almond Green, Maroon, Highway Yellow, or Rose Taupe would be preferred exterior colour, complimentary original interior with red and green being my favourite options there. A series engine converted to unleaded and front disc conversion would be nice too, just to make it a bit easier to live with day to day. Wiper and heater upgrade are also probably sensible, seems that both are of the adequate variety in stock form. The tricky bit is that I don't want a show car or a project, I want something in between and really whatever I buy is going to be a bit of pot luck on that front because they're all going to be hiding something.